Treeptych for Winter 2016

“What kind of times are these” by Adrienne Rich:

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light —
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.


1

“Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield:

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.


2

Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

Under the world’s conifers — under the creek side cedar behind where I sit — a mantle of fungus wraps the soil in a weft, shooting out blind thread after frail thread of palest dissolved white. From root tip to root tip, root hair to root hair, these filaments loop and wind; the thought of them always reminds me of Rimbaud’s “I have stretched cords from steeple to steeple, garlands from window to window, chains of gold from star to star, and I dance.” King David leaped and danced naked before the ark of the Lord in a barren desert. Here the very looped soil is an intricate throng of praise. Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.


3

Angela Pelster, from Limber:

I’ve lived in this house for two years now and watched the seasons force the maple into cycles of bloom and beauty and death and nakedness, but who needs another tree metaphor about change and weathering the storms and remaining beautiful through it all? A tree is not a metaphor. A tree is a tree, and we are both only one strong wind away from falling. Our bodies already know how to begin.