In the Forest of Splintered Trees

The winter I saw a tree explode, my father took me hunting in the fir-pregnant forest behind our house—anxiety throbbing in my forehead, like an eel trapped under tarp, as my father made me struggle through the snow with his rifle. Past the clearing I heard the crack of bark and cowered into snow as bits of wood arrowed all around, like hornets disturbed from their slumber—a tree splintered down the middle, a large gap between the boughs. Don’t overreact, my father told me as he pulled me up by the scrunch of my jacket. It’s just frozen sap expanding. I could hear the trees erupting all throughout that long slog through the bone-white snow. That whole winter I heard them: the ruptures forming, the sap pulsing from the wood. Even now, I catch the buckle of bark, like when gridlocked in traffic, slamming the stumps of my fists against the steering wheel, or when cut in line at the post office—my toes digging into the soles of my shoes, like roots desperate for water.


Jean-Luc Fontaine is a part-time grocery bagger and a part-time teacher. He enjoys hot coffee and long train rides.