When Great Trees Fall

Abby Zimet

Roy and his brother Richie, another sweet and ornery soul, who died last year.

Another old friend died. There's been too much of that going around.

Roy Slamm was a gentle generous soul, a tough old bird, a master craftsman who cared deeply for his family, his friends, his art and the state of the world. His endless and eclectic lumber pile was his pride; from it, he created things of astonishing beauty. For my tiny kitchen, he created a one-legged table of poplar and cherry, a marvel of compact loveliness. He also gave me my first carpentry job. And I was sitting in his well-worn kitchen, drinking yet more coffee, when the Vietnam War ended. We celebrated, mournful, exultant.

It happens, I'm told, to us all. But every time, notes another fellow-traveller, it's like we lose a piece of ourselves. Hold fast to each other. And old friend, rest in peace.


Posted for him by one of his daughters:

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.



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