No Language for Lost Limbs

Old sugar maples edge the road
with power lines parting branches,
and trunks baring scars of lost limbs,
victims of storms and chainsaws
that feared wind and black-outs.
The ‘b’ is silent, I tell the children.
“Cross it out. Don’t say the sound.”
They nod and ask, “What’s a limb?”  
“An old word for tree branch…
a very large one…a word for you, too…
your arms, your legs.”
Limbs, boughs, silent graphemes,
lost sounds from language,
words once strong, baring tire swings,
tree forts, bare feet, bobcats,
ancient hunters with arrows.
Limbs, grayed, shedding bark,
rotting, crashing to the ground,
remnants of a dying language,
supplanted by buckthorn, box elders,
text messages, lopped words,
hieroglyphs sent to silent screens.
Limbs climbing, leaping, marching
reaching back, moving forward
through centuries to today,
now disemvoweled, shriveled,
reduced to words not spoken.
“Don’t risk life and limb; be careful!”
we warn the children. If you lose one,
you lose the other. Words hold stories,
yours, mine, collective histories.
Limbs lost forfeit leaves, shade,
nouns, verbs, a missing word today,
a vanished language tomorrow.

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