by Paul J. Willis

I am the heart of an oak,
the core, the center, the eye
in the dark target of rings. Far
from the sap, I go it alone—
no need to eat and drink,
to feast all day like new
wood under the bark. Excess
of youth is far in my past; I am
established now, the mainstay
of those frivolous branches
flitting about overhead.
When storm comes, they’ll
by God wish they were back
in here with me, chair pulled up
to the fire, book in hand, a good
pipe all winter long. I hear
them snapping away like twigs—
the sound is muffled, pleasant
from this inner distance. I puff, I
turn another page.

—from Getting to Gardisky Lake