To Cudjoe’s Tree (first letter)

When I was a kid in Northern Ontario trees seemed like benign patriarchs. They were waiting for the catastrophe of humanity to pass. They were waiting to rule the family of life with silence again. This was especially apparent with deciduous trees in winter.
Their gnarled death-fingers keep budding in late spring, as if to say: “It is only a matter of time.”
You must possess something like this — something too old to be human and much more intractable than bravery could ever be.
Do you remember the Spanish and English pissers? The Creoles and West Africans? The blood of the last Arawaks soaking your roots? Do you worry Jamaica will be cleared like Haiti, the rich soil all around you washed out to the ocean?
Your name’s sake was short and stocky with a big lump of flesh protruding from his hunched back. He came out of the jungle to meet Colonel Guthrie in 1738 wearing ill-fitting European clothing ruined by guerrilla warfare. His hat was in tatters and too small for his head. He had a machete under his arm and an ancient Spanish musket in his hand. His skin was black and leather-like.
Under your foliage they signed the treaty to end the first Maroon War, guaranteeing the liberty of Cudjoe’s people and 1,500 acres of land to settle. They’d no longer live covertly in the mountains. They could hunt anywhere past the three mile barriers around towns and plantations.
They agreed to return escaped slaves instead of harboring them.
You’ve been a growing monument despite yourself ever since. The impasse of the present was stirring in your shadow. Will they all drop dead before cutting you down?