Manner & Custom by James Longley

1The men take turns heaving their boys & girls
up into the higher branches.                2Certain women tie bands       
of rough green wool around the heavy ankles
of the lowest hanging children.                        3There is groaning
in the tree and a hazardous swaying, chaotic mostly,
but at strange times unified.                4All the men and women separate      
and confer at length and quietly.                     5Certain men, rough
wool around their ankles, spit into their hands and climb
            the tree if they see a kid hanging with a band of theirs.
6At this point the low branches either break or bow.
7If they break, the women tend to their fallen children
and the ankles of the next-lowest boys & girls are tied.         
8If the branches bow, the women are invited to join their men          
and heavy children by walking onto the smallest leaves,
now trembling just above the grass.    9All men and women  
unaccounted for tie themselves in rings around the tree to sing
            an old but funny song to their light-as-feathers
sons & daughters, while stars fall, stuck up there.