The wooden corpse of the ancient oak
lay sprawled across the sunlight dappled clearing.
Its exposed roots clung to clods of soil that crumbled away
as armies of termites marched through the rotting wood.
After decades spent sheltering squirrels and cradling bird nests
with its leaf-laden boughs spread wide in welcome
the tree’s barren fingers stretched parallel to the ground
to console the flowers surrounding its grave.
The tree could no longer feel the worms beneath it
as they tunneled through the dirt
nor could it groan as colonies of termites
bored through its flesh, devouring all in their wake.
The oak’s trunk served as a coffin
for the decomposing layers of cellulose
within its suit of bark; its inner rings
married its rotting cadaver to the earth.
The oak’s acorn born offspring continued to thrive
as they dug deeper into the compost on the forest floor,
unaware of the banquet’s newest addition
of their fallen father, now fertilizer.
Emily Dorffer is a current sophomore at Johns Hopkins University. She has previously had a short story published in Breath & Shadow.