Twice now I’ve seen it, a small
white pine staked by a lonely
stretch of road where someone
perished in an accident–tinsel
gleaming in February snow,
red bows bound to branches, set
there in love and hope that maybe
the next world will be Christmas.

Seventeen years my parents set
such a small tree on my brother’s
grave, by a headstone marking
his four years on earth. Our only
grieving as a family, this ritual tree
of toys for a boy ever young, topped
sometimes with a candy cane, more
often with sadness — who was it for?

Like Tutankhamen’s golden boxes,
ranks of clay warriors guard a king
in Xian, jade robes envelop a Mayan
princess, and a white pine stands.
What joyous message do we send
the much beloved? What comfort do
we bring our own plundered hearts,
left behind with things of this world?