Tree of Life

A foreign bird sang
in a foreign accent
too thick for anything but the sound
of spitting: puh puhpuh puh puh.
A new mouth had blossomed
in my chest, round and wet
with astonishment, & I wanted
nothing more than to lie back in
the sturdy arms of my captain & have
a heart-to-heart talk with the sun.
Where was I? What did I need
this stick for, so far from any ground?
I let it fall. I would be an epiphyte now —
my fancy boots & spiked helmet
already dangled well enough for roots.
I let out the breath I’d been holding
for so long, thinking its true owner
would return to claim it. Above me
in ragged ranks the whole village
turned out again
to wave & wave.

Photo link (public domain)


Don’t forget to visit Festival of the Trees 33. I hate to play favorites, but I do think this is one of the most varied and interesting editions to date. Highlights for me included a gallery of silo trees, an illustrated essay on tree asters, and a detailed account of one couple’s adventures learning to climb trees with ropes just like the people in Richard Preston’s book, The Wild Trees.

3 Replies to “Tree of Life”

  1. This is a really touching poem along with it’s really unique photo of Hun in a tree. His interpretation of his surroundings…. The leaves as villagers waving.
    “I would be an epiphyte now ” He is morphing as he dies.
    I’m reminded of that anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” an entirely different interpretation of men in trees.

  2. Joan – Yes, that song is never far from one’s mind when thinking about men dangling from trees. I didn’t reference it here simply because I thought the milieux were too dissimilar (though the greatest wave of lynchings did come after Black veterans returned from WWI). But it did force me to think of another image than fruit.

    Hi matt – Glad you liked. Thanks for commenting.

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