The Chankiri Tree
At the killing field, Choeung Ek, no bells are rung.
In a tall stupa, piled skulls cannot blame or resent
This staring crowd-emptied bones without tongues.
Pathways lead between excavations begun
And abandoned. The plain is scarred with shallow dents
Bordered by trees where children climb the rungs.
In a low building, victims' photos, hung
In rows of black and white, draw the murdered present.
I scan across the peering eyes, struck dumb.
Back outside in the glaring sun, leaves are stung
With images—faces risen, called up and sent
To green the tree of knowledge rung by rung.
See, they return: In the wide ditch new grass has sprung
Where bones still lie, shaded by the tree's broad tent.
When a breeze moves, leaves whisper what they've become.
The bark is torn. Against this trunk executioners flung
The bodies of children. Bullets, costly, were rarely spent.
We climb the tree of knowledge rung by rung.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues.
John P. Fishwick Professor of English
© 2008 Robert Schultz