I live with my two dogs on the edge of the university research forest, where I walk everyday and think and pray. I have taught at Oregon State University since 1986 and have been a Catholic deacon since 1987. I have written a number of books, including two books of poetry. My second book of poems, THE NEXT THING ALWAYS BELONGS, was published in 2011 by Airlie Press.
We bought the tree with the money I made when I baptized Stan,
who had nineteen confirmed kills in Viet Nam. He’s an old man now,
in a wheel chair, shriveled and pale, and he wanted to be cleansed
of his sins. “I’ve been in hell,” he told me, “and I want to be free,”
and though he didn’t talk much, and could hardly move, when
I started to pour the water on his head, and I began to say the words,
“I baptize you in name of the Father”—“and of the Son,” he said,
“and of the Holy Spirit,” and the water dribbled down his face
and dripped off his chin, wetting the front of his pale, checked shirt.
We planted the tree on a fine spring day. The earth was soft
and warm. We dug the hole, scored the matted roots, and gently
set it in, then filled the hole with amended soil and watered,
thoroughly, soaking the ground until the bed had turned to mud.
It’s a pretty tree. A Paper Bark Maple, they call it, because
the bark peels off in curly strips almost smooth enough to write on.
-first published in Ruminate
©2015 Chris Anderson