The Silent Sentry
I leaned on the remnants of an old rail fence
by Tom Pilkington
As I looked at the dead oak tree
Standing like a silent sentry
In the fallow fields of a long abandoned farmstead.
As I stood alone that day
I pondered the life of this once proud and magnificent being
A being not so unlike our own kind.
I gazed upon its lifeless form, its limbs without leaves
Its gnarled trunk, worn smooth by wind and rain
Where long ago bluebirds nested.
Where field hands rested in its shade
As they joked and laughed and drank water
From a jug left in the coolness
Hidden from the summer sun.
Where lovers from a gentler time
May have spread their picnic fare
Of wine and cheese and bread.
It once stood green and strong
Guarding, it seemed, against the uncertainty of its future
And perhaps even our own.
It stood its post against drought and floods and pesticides
Against storms and winter’s bite and time
Two centuries of time
Time that caused its weakened state
Time that tolled the final bell
For this silent sentry’s demise.
As I turned and walked away
Back to the commercialness in which we exist
I was saddened, yet wiser
For the reflections on the passing of this great oak.
But wait, what was this I saw from the corner of my eye
Could this be what it seemed
“Yes” I thought as I beheld the sight
The miracle of nature was at hand.
There but a short distance away
A young and slender oak tree stood
Swaying in the summer breeze.
As it leaned toward the silent old sentry
A voice I thought I heard
“Go rest old soldier,
Your work is done,
I’ll stand your watch from here.”