I am the tree arched over your yard
abrading sky above the shards of what once
were contents of your Instagram life, guarded-
by-Doberman duplicitous wife, crunched
digital frames, board games amidst piled piss
yellow leaves. I have outlived any you grieve.
No fervid vermillion shed to reminisce,
I’m barren aged oak one solstice you kissed. Cleave
without pity, fearing my fall. New curve
in trunk casts an unfortunate pall
upon confetti of frozen hors d’ouvres,
scrapbooks which litter tidy suburbs. All
I was — a bower in which once you relaxed.
When you sense danger, you spare me no axe.
I’ve still got Hurricane Sally in my brain. Every night I go on my walk — which at least I get to do again with some regularity, I run into down trees which make me very sad. I love trees so much. The deceptively frail longleaf pines which surround me here in Pensacola have been ever present tall witnesses in my chaotic young life.
A lot of my abuse happened in my bedroom as a child, and the tall longleaf pines I would stare longingly to from my second-story bedroom. It felt like they saw things that happened to me. Before writing, they were my first confidant in that way.
The first time I playfully got naked alone in the woods as a young girl exploring my body — it happened in the woods across from my house which were thick and full of these same trees. I always felt they knew who I was in all the complexities. I still do.
Seeing their bodies chopped up on the roadside as I take my walks, it saddens me. There’s one on my path that is dangerously bowed and I know someone will soon cut down, and seeing it brings the heaviness that has characterized Hurricane Sally to me.
I’ve been doing a lot better but the trees and their plight here, it brings me down. I feel so privileged to have found my way into living in the midst of so many longleaf pines. Living in the woods, I feel they are my family.
I’ve been wanting to write about the pain of these struggling trees who offer so much and whose loss, for some people, fades in the background of appliances, roofs and technology. I’ve definitely felt in this pandemic cut off by people, too, so I guess this poem is about two kinds of pain.
I did lose an oak in my yard, an enormous tree that is still lying there as it so big it’s going to require thousands of dollars to spirit it away. It’s why I made myself an oak in this poem in its honor.
If you’d like to read more about my Pensacola longleaf pines in books I’ve written, I’d recommend you read Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream or Dewy Decimals.
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