The Tree that Was

I hadn’t really climbed that tree,
(or any tree)
but I’d seen how she brushed
the silver stubble on the cheek of the moon,
seen where the first shoot
that dared to break through
into a sunlight it always knew
would be waiting,
where that first shoot had ascended
clambering over darkened rings;

they said up there I could put my mouth
on the lips of the cloud
and drink from rivers gone dry,
they said up there the wind
would sit on my shoulder
and nuzzle my neck as it read
redacted poems in my book,
they said it was a place where shadows could not reach,
where that broken voice would begin to fade,
a place where I could knit sunbeams,
into mittens for my trembling heart,
a place where I could learn to love again;

but this morning there she was,
like a queen felled,
lying twisted on her side,
squirrels still scampering along her bleeding legs,
people stepping over her naked crown,
shouting into the silence
that hid at the back of her leaves
like frightened spores;

and i who had never climbed that tree,
(or any tree)
crying on the kerb,
the wind watching listless
from the shadows
that began to creep into her knowing eyes,
tears pooling into muddy streams
that swallowed the unravelling clouds,
half-words still tangled in her fingers
and love,
like a secret whispered by the dead,
like a tear perched on the very edge,
love still unlearned,
stranded in the alleys between the stars,
lost in the endless blue of its path,
with no way,
with no way to come back home.

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42 thoughts on “The Tree that Was

  1. Really love the imagery you bring with your words, I remember the days of climbing trees as a kid and the adventures of flying to faraway lands or just the solitude to think. The sorrow of seeing no more the trees that were once there and the memories of what was. Excellent poem!

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  2. ‘They said up there I could put my mouth on the lips of the cloud’ – my favourite line in this wonderful poem..felling trees can spark huge emotions..they seem so constant in our landscape..strong..certain..reliable..and if we remember and reflect as you have done here we know that they too are alive..

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  3. Wow ! this was an absolutely stunning personification of trees. i used to sit in front of this tree when growing from the tumultuous innocence of youth into a wiser adult. i would face the tree attempting to attain wisdom by becoming ‘one’ with it (teachings of the ‘Tao’/i ching)

    gracias. i too am totally disheartened by the felling of old trees. the are the roots of earth touching the clouds and sky, marrying with the universe.

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  4. Beautifully penned. This poem has an emotional impact..especially thinking of the tree lying twisted on her side. I will think of trees in my environment in a different way today, being thankful that they still stand.

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  5. I think this is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read….with lines like, ‘but I’d seen how she brushed the silver stubble on the cheek of the moon’….yes what a vision.

    And I who have climbed a tree, knows these words to be true….

    ‘they said up there I could put my mouth
    on the lips of the cloud
    and drink from rivers gone dry,
    they said up there the wind
    would sit on my shoulder
    and nuzzle my neck’

    And my heart bleeds when a tree is felled by man or nature…really one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read!

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  6. The whole second stanza is utterly stunning! Lines like, “a place where I could knit sunbeams,
    into mittens for my trembling heart” make it into this powerful depiction of a place so magical one cannot fathom it could ever be torn down, so when it is, the reader weeps too. Incredibly good 🙂

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  7. Rajani, this is a simply gorgeous poem….so many beautiful lines. I especially love “a place where I could knit sunbeams into mittens for my trembling heart.” Wow. I also love the emotion with which the narrator stands beside the fallen tree, the feeling that a murder has been committed. That’s how I feel too. One of my very faves of yours……..

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  8. This reminded me of the Weeping Willow that had to be taken down ..it broke my heart the day I drove by and saw her demise. I pulled over and took a picture of her and cried for her as she could no longer weep.

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