/ Lament

Among the longest-lived creatures
on earth, sequoia sempervirens can exceed
a fir’s height by 200 feet, the base
of its trunk wider than a horse carriage
or city block. Its tallest example
is named Hyperion, its eldest
Grogan’s Fault, discovered
after 2000 years of obscurity
to all but itself, this tree that feeds
on fog, bears both pollen and seed cone for self-
insemination. It can churn through
humus and bedrock for burls to adopt
as seedlings after fire, the awl-
shaped leaves—dark green, with blue-
white bands of stomata—twisted and spire-
topped to trap each glimpse of sun.
Richer than wine
with tannic acid, rilled with sapsucker
pocks, the fluted bark resists
fungus, insect, damp and rot. Flickers
and deer mice thrive within its branch wells.
So, too, do salamanders and pseudoscorpions,
vines of huckleberry, tree frogs and webworm
moths, the silver-haired bat and fringed
myotis. Named for the man who developed
Cherokee’s syllabary, this tree’s fire scars have housed
horse stables and itinerant families
inside its gouges, its milled planks alone remaining
untouched when San Francisco burned, these lovers
of flood and flame, that cannot conduct heat
and compensate for weakness by sloughing
and splitting, buttressing wind-
lean with selective wood growth.
Once covering, in 1850, over 2 million acres,
they now prevail in strips and plots
totaling 40,000 football fields. Stanford,
attracted to what he saw of their strength,
ordered steam engines into groves to drag logs down
through skid trails, the heartwood stacked
on railroad pallets to make
more railroad, the billets uprooted, trekked
to the opposite coast where Charles Sheeler painted
Rolling Power, his portrait of Dreyfuss’
New York Central Locomotive, its wheel wells
slick as cloisonné in olives,
greys and browns. The most spectacular
American invention yet, Sheeler marveled,
the buckskin ties tamped tight to their irons,
shadowing his canvas margin.