The old man didn’t stand with the others
doing their tai chi in the park.
He chose to stand on the dragon’s spine,
that’s what he called it,
a narrow ridge trailing off downhill
away from an ancient twisted oak.
He said the tree was his teacher.
What has it taught you?
Name one thing, someone said.
Well, he said, I learned that
when I breathe out slowly, pushing
up from my Qi center,
near my navel, I think,
I’m sorry, but I can’t remember,
when I clear away the mean thinking
leftover from the drive to the park,
the breath that leaves my body
always comes back.
And so I asked the tree,
Is giving love and receiving love
like that? That equal measure thing?
Yes, the tree said to me,
just the same as breathing,
just the same as life.