Because most humans seem compelled
To sort each other, bad and good,
A core survival strategy
For all human ecosystems,
Maybe it’s not so surprising
That humans sort time and dying
Into good and bad, next and past,
As well, as if experience
Had been given to us to sort
Into appropriate baskets,
As if that were the job with which
Our lives or our gods had tasked us.
Good times, bad times, hard times, the best.
A horrible end, a good death.
We can’t seem to look at dead woods
Without saying whether death should
Have come a better, more moral,
More natural path, whether death,
However it came for these trees,
Has been accorded due respect,
Whether how woods died in the past,
Or now, or next would be the best.
Here’s a dead pine by the wayside,
Left standing—fretted, twisted, bleached—
Would you declare this good or bad?
Was it a victim of long drought,
Depleted soil, sheer ancientness,
Or cored by an invasive pest?
Should it have been salvaged for fuel
Or furniture, or is this best?
If death were neither good nor bad,
Its changes neither eternal
Return nor forever bereft,
How would you sort life, hard or blessed?