In The Beginning
(The Tree-hugger’s Lament)
Always of interest are the ones-who-hug-trees, forest work,
and what the trees say back when tiny arms, so blessed,
reach out to embrace a massive girth in giant, watchful daddy-
rooted earth, reaching sky, rough bark over endless witness
of the days played upon the great tine of seasons' tuning fork.
How does such intention, an impulse in a seed case
smaller than a thought, caught in scents of redwood, fir or pine,
manage to unfold tier after tier of that great eternal spire,
meet at last the whispers of the highest leaves and mine
the glittery gold of youngest day, then return to shaded space?
What secrets passed in those few moment's handed
to a hidden keep within the unlatched heart's approach
where none but the sullen meadow winds are driven, shamed
in merely passing over things that boot and greed have broached;
where the ancient songs? In the killing fields of lumber, banded.
I am not the spotted owl, not the black bear nor the salmon,
those diverse conceits from which you measure
your need to birth, your top-heavy enterprises, your new
species in greed, lament or swervy science, your compulsion
to do, in songs that do not rhyme with your own bodies.
I am the net of earth, I rang the sky before you breathed;
I breathed upon the shore, within the lake, atop mountains
And for the sake of breathing was the word, and in the word
was the beginning and before the beginning, I was the alphabet
from which your song of birth would assemble and be heard.
In that moment, when her tender flesh awoke to life and smiled
against a scratchy coat of bark, a rough woodcutter came
to the field where she stood, sap-full of labor's joy, his callused
hand waving his well-earned pay, "rent! food!" he called her name,
"A new dress!", scooping her up into his arms to hug his child.
Then he held her high and whirled her round, trees! field! axe! & town!,
put her down between him and tree, she saw not tree but axe
and wondered at those who pay for death when joy is free,
on fields beneath a reddening sky where a timber town's millstacks
billow smoke into the air, darkened faces with wood-chipped hair.
Halfway home, home complete, her smile opens mother's arms
and rushes up to meet her there. On the bank they hug awhile,
pressed within their circle to listen to a fetal beat
as mother beams with civic pride of progress made in women's style, —
a few more trees must move aside for health & safety! School! & farm!
Homeward by the stream, across the shallows on naked feet, wild
over smooth black gravel bars where things become sound and splash
in the dark pool's evening song; scents grown familiar on the breeze,
a squeeze of cool mud between her toes, then a crash upon the forest floor.
No more, no more do hugs persuade this evening child.
from 'The Tree-hugger's Lament' by red slider