trees are about you

1 February 2014

I was far from
the root of things and
therefore quiet
of mind. Picking

holly, breaking stems
with gloved hands.
In each waxy leaf
the gleam of winter’s

flattest days. So few
berries this year,
and all of them out
of reach. I’d climbed

a steep slope, and in
reaching leant my whole
weight against a birch.
It was only right

to put my ear to it,
as once I’d auscultated
the chest of a man
I tried to love; whose

blood would press
to the inner meniscus
of skin, and skim
away. I heard this

time no sap, just
the tree’s own
chambering, a hum
of branch scraping

with another birch
in the rising wind.
Then, four clear
knocks. Who hid

inside? Or asked
to leave? Or wanted
to come in; to the hill,
the open air, my

simple ear? Who’s there,
I might have said.
Or found some other
question. Are you at home

in there? Knock,
knock. I know
of a man who,
faced with ancient

handprints in Chauvet
Cave, saw not an imprint,
but that someone still
pushed firmly

from the other side.
But what then of
the drawn bison,
the stalking panther?

Do they prowl and
moan behind it all,
coming at us through
even this bark, resolute.

Who’s there, I want
to say. There are no limits
anymore. Everything burns
and dissipates or

somehow roots in.
Joseph Priestley
felt his one death closing
in, no more than a high

whine in the tips of
of the trees. He said
goodbye, and covered
his eyes, that no one

should witness what
passed. In the end,
we always seem to
face a kind of shame.

I moved my head
away from the tree’s
inner murmur. Enough
gathering for today.

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