Monday, November 27, 2017

"The Tree' by Janet Frame


There’s a tree that’s going to be cut down any day

and does not know it, for trees never know

until the axe-ripe time descends to sever their roots

from the cool underground pantry, earth-lined,

sun- and rain-supplied.

                                       This one tree I have in view and mind

crowds a quarter of my window, waves finger-shaped branches

like a sea creature exploring, sensing in the blue surrounding swirl and stir

encounters of pleasure and danger.

‘Ugly old tree,’ I heard someone say.

‘No one lives in the house now, anyway.’

And soon, I know, the neighbourhood will take up the cry.

‘The tree is too old, too high

and all who lived in the house are dead or gone away.’

It cannot keep still. Hour by hour

I have watched it and even when there’s no wind blowing,

its whole being is astir: branches colliding, brushing leaf-tips,

evading one another, helplessly rocking to and fro

in the overpowering entirety

of a tree’s night and day and night and day;

and it is only the watcher who grows weary.

Motels wait to be born: a new progeny, tastefully walled

with wisteria and clematis; an arterial rose

bubbles as a rare sign of life in the old garden.

I wanted to pick it but I decided not to.

It will stain the great axe when it comes riding by

knight-errant to rescue the suburban neighbourhood

from the dangers of the view-encroaching tree

cradlerocking too sky-high and wild, senselessly

alive in a world where it is far more tactful

to feign death too many years before you die.

(from The Pocket Mirror, 1967)


In memory of all the beautiful trees that do not deserve to die.

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