Peter “Pedro” Brown Hoffmeister

Fairy Tales for Terrified Children

A Fallen Pine Tree of Kotavuoren by Pekka Halonen

The decomposing loam is a smell so strong
– after the rain – it’s almost a taste in my mouth,
mixes with the long-eared sage and juniper,
not berrying but sticky with resin, as
the pinecones of the Ponderosas fall
through the lower trees like squirrels who’ve
lost their branches. I’ve lost my branches

as well, but I don’t talk about it, won’t
say, “My brain is not what it used to be.
I’m not capable of what I used to do,
and everything feels different.” I walk

out past the last volcanic boulder, where
a small patch of trees were struck by lightning
a few years ago, and – burned – the hollow
skeletons that remain are riddled by
wind-smoothed holes. Under my feet,
the cryptobiotics break in pans of dirt,
spaces opening between the trees, Bitterbrush
giving shade to the ground, where I discover
a coyote kill, a Mule Deer pulled down,
eaten and torn apart, the deer’s antlers turned into
the soil as if he tried to fight the earth. I do not know

how it feels to be encircled by a pack, new enemy
always snapping its jaws from behind, if you
bend your neck to look, another ready
to advance on your blindside. I do not know

how it feels to be a Mule Deer, but I do know
what it means to step away from my life, or
have my life step away from me, to see
the black-burned trees of my past, the truth that even
the new growth will not be the same as the old.

I know the difficulty of being an animal,
of being a human, rain washing the bones
coming up through the wildflowers, sun-bleached
spine, a scapula like a wide, flat spoon, ribs
that remind me of tines on pitchforks carried
by villagers, humans coming through forests
in search of monsters.


About the writer:
Peter “Pedro” Brown Hoffmeister was the Poet/Writer-In-Residence of Joshua Tree National Park in the spring of 2015. His novels have earned starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, The Bulletin, VOYA, and year-end Best Books of 2016 and 2017 by the American Library Association, VOYA, and Bank Street. He has recently been publishing poetry with Writers Resist.

Image: A Fallen Pine Tree of Kotavuoren by Pekka Halonen (1865-1933). Oil on canvas. 39.7 x 37.3 inches. 1916. Public domain.