-They have the look of survivors, not conquerors
Alex Ross

They must be the oldest trees
on earth. Found on the eastern slopes of California’s
White Mountains, also along the Wasatch
range in Utah, everywhere contorted and wraithlike
they appear dead but live,
some, five thousand years, or more
it’s confirmed when their rings are carefully
examined. The mangled wood
hide a trove of ancient stories. Bristlecones cling

to life, fossil and ribbons of live
bark, each different, acquiring the elderly
appearance of individuals, their dreams, anxieties
projected on and around them, as if joined
and shaped by ice sharp salt, driftwood
from an imagined ocean. Bristlecones
have been called elders, sages and it’s true
artists conjure ghosts out of Bristlecones’
writhing shapes, find what
was, what will be, our
blurry, reckless future.

Michael Carrino is a retired lecturer in the English department at SUNY Plattsburgh. He was co-founder and poetry editor of the Saranac Review. He has had seven books of poetry published as well as many individual poems in numerous literary journals.