The Figure on the Hill
by Jeffrey Harrison
When I saw the figure on the crown of the hill,
high above the city, standing perfectly still
against a sky so saturated with the late-
afternoon, late-summer Pacific light
that granules of it seemed to have come out of
solution, like a fine precipitate
of crystals hanging in the brightened air,
I thought whoever it was standing up there
must be experiencing some heightened state
of being, or thinking—or its opposite,
thoughtlessly enraptured by the view.
Or maybe, looking again, it was a statue
of Jesus or a saint, placed there to bestow
a ceaseless blessing on the city below.
Only after a good five minutes did I see
that the figure was actually a tree—
some kind of cypress, probably, or cedar.
I was both amused and let down by my error.
Not only had I made the tree a person,
but I’d also given it a vision,
which seemed to linger in the light-charged air
around the tree’s green flame, then disappear.