Ancient Bark and Branch

I don’t recognize myself in the mirror,
this profile of an old man; not the one
I think I am or feel in the bones of my face.
He seems to be sinking back into the earth.
I love the earth but I’m not going down, not yet.
My roots go down; I know them more than ever.
I feel the dark earth a living thing,
holding the stories of all I know and all I’m made of,
stories of the many people come and gone.


I know the trace down through the soil
and the deep peace of winter when I sleep.
My seasons are not like the city around me
and I struggle with incongruence.
I’ve found the path between the vertical root
and the way up with life force
into branches and leaves and the sunlit sky.
I love the wind and the rain as they stir me
with the awakening that comes each day
and around me younger trees but trees in their own right
that once were invisible, the hope of my seed.


When I see his old face in the mirror,
leaning forward in the way of his fathers,
bowing to the years and the coming embrace,
a part of me wants to let go to the decline
and feel the ease the earth will bring,
but another part, a strong one, wants to live
and breathe in the air and beauty of the forest.


I pull back the weight of my skull
against the old and tired muscles of my neck.
My shoulders are already back but my head must follow
and then I am aright, not lifted by the pride
I’ve always feared, but by desire, in assurance
and with the ancient bark and branch of the many trees before me,
stand in the light and continue to become a human being.



Ancient Bark and Branch


18 Responses to “Ancient Bark and Branch”

  1. Marco says:

    Bless you, Don!

  2. Tony Palombo says:

    You speak for me, aging friend. We’ve come down a path together and I’ve always resonated with your spirit, demeanor, radiant smile, easy eyes of friendship blessed, words of life and of wisdom dripping from your truthful tongue. I bless you as you go a bit further down this path we walk together and follow you into the arms of the peaceful earth mother. But, not yet. We still have work to do, life to enjoy, sights to see, friends to visit, children and their children to love an encourage. Thanks for your way with words and heart.

  3. Pichay says:

    I know of this in-between-place of which you speak. If to ascend is celebration, what then is sinking into the fold of the Mother?

    I tire of the constant flow of email begging for all of my fingers to plug the holes in the dam. I didn’t manifest to support the damn dam! Let the river flow free!!

  4. T Johansson says:

    Wrinkles are a VERY GOOD thing… space for the rivers of wisdom to flow. We should have gotten rid of mirrors long ago!

    Loving you “as is,”
    Old Sister T

  5. Stan Grindstaff says:


  6. Don, that is a moving and beautiful poem. You’ve express how it is when you have aged but still feel young and vital. Since ascension can be an internal condition I am enjoying the process of letting that be my condition no matter what cloak I am wearing..

  7. jack says:

    Thanks Don, for these questions and this journey into self; why is it that mirrors are always so damn good at showing just what is there? Why can’t they have backward memories that show the youth and vitality that is “slipping away”? And yet, the mirror is always, always, always reflecting in the ever present moment, the image of exactly what is……..

  8. David Banner says:

    Don…this really speaks to my love for the peace of death with the urge to keep living…..more to do to fully bless my world!

  9. tom wilson says:

    Yes, the poem and the comments: what a strange, often scary, often alluring feeling to have made most of the journey now. And it calls us to decide on how to walk this last phase. It has to be mixed with gratitude and a sense of impending loss, because your poem expresses what Rilke said in the 9th Duino Elegy, simply “Because being here means so much.”

    Beautiful poem.

  10. JOHN WALSH says:

    A powerful and compelling wisdom, Don. “I’m not going down, not yet…” Thank you.

  11. thomas mcdermott says:

    Too close to home! Very moving.

  12. Maria Frid says:

    The innocent child is still present as I look with you into that mirror that talks in many languages, some whispers are sweet and reassuring, with memories of delight and some are screams of horror and terror that pull me toward a desire to withdraw. But innocence and beauty are powerful sources that won’t be forgotten and they guide me to the forest, mountains, rivers, all the gifts given to me to care for. Your words of inspiration are magic to my soul. Thank you.

  13. Ronnie Lim says:

    This is a truly beautiful poem. I love it and relate to it with you.

  14. Bill Gordon says:

    Very moving….deep emotions in this one. I can definitely relate to the feelings you are expressing – deep in my core. Keep up the amazing poems!

  15. Athena Coleman says:

    I love the sensitivity of this poem. It is quiet and robust at once. Aging is an awesome journey. I’ve earned these years, and I actually like the word, “old”. It speaks to endurance and if one is happy, it speaks to filling these years that have passed with grace, color and vigor. Having said that, I still scare myself when I’ve attempted to take a ‘selfie’.

  16. Bill Dare says:

    Keep stretchin’ Bro… you’ve got it!

  17. Pat Fitzsimmons says:

    Thank you Don, I’m deeply with you on this remarkable journey. I’m also feeling the explosive beauty of Springtime like never before, perhaps I’m old enough to fully receive it now!

  18. Chaz says:

    Wow – I’ve read this five times now and each reading brings new insights and delights! Thank you for the wise guidance, dear friend.

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