I wrote this for a “tree-themed” poetry contest awhile back, but it was too long. Adult poetry doesn’t sell, and I wrote this before I started writing poetry for children (which does sell). However, I think it is one of my best poems, and I choose to share it today, as I believe that, due to its length, it would be a hard sell to publishers.
The Memory Trees
Whose house this is now,
I do not know,
but through the trees, I see,
a little girl in pants–
just as I used to be.
Circling the ring of dirt round the crab apple tree,
she treads the path I once did.
Bow and arrow poised,
she shoots at the fruit,
bagging her inedible loot.
The sweet gum tree my twin brother once climbed,
has now been carved into a London Night Watchman–
a sentinel amongst the imported palm trees–
a memorial of happier times,
The dying tree, given another chance at life,
has reached its prime, for it will grow no more;
like the cedar chest where I keep my daughter’s baby clothes,
the mahogany coffee table where I drew as a little girl,
looking much distressed,
the cherry hutch where my grandmother’s Wedgwood china is kept,
the corners as chipped as the teacups it holds.
These trees, unrecognizable from their natural state,
will live on as objects of beauty,
for as long as those who love them live.
Like me, these trees were,
growing until they branched out on their own,
flourishing until they were cut down.
Never, was I grounded like the trunk,
its roots running deep;
I am the scatters, the chippings,
pressed and formed into my present state.
The noises of the children break me from my reverie,
and I am in the present once more,
the twilight deepening.
Three little boys are gathered under the oak tree,
acorns peppering the ground like tiny pumpkins,
where the leaves of fall form a carpet like a peppercorn mélange.
They are playing in the dirt patch in the shade,
wearing holes in the knees of their jeans,
while a lady in Capris brings them lemonade.
A boy and girl play on the tire swing,
looking so much like my brother and me,
my heart catches, and memories come back in snatches;
I remember this–this was the swing my father built for me,
with an expired tire from Lila, Daddy’s old Caddy.
Twirling in midair like marionettes,
their skinny legs dangle like loose shoestrings;
their arms are stretched taut,
their fingers clutching the rusty, twisting chains,
chains that will surely leave behind a metallic residue.
They’re looking up at the sky–
an inky canvas with pinholes punched through–
screaming in dizzy, giddy delight.
The tree house where my brothers stashed their baseball cards,
stands at the edge of the woodland–
a reminder of what once was,
of the kind of magic only children understand.
Twas these living trees that nourished me,
in ways chopped down it could not–
the apples, too sour to eat,
were balls to throw for Halliday,
our German shepherd of fifteen years and so many days;
the apples had often been tossed into Mrs. Smith’s backyard orchard,
where a good many of her cats were interred.
The gum tree had been our Tree of Knowledge,
to keep away the evil fay that lurked in the forest,
waiting to steal our clothes that we left to sun on the rock
while we swam in the lake to a crickety, ribbety chorus.
The maple tree had been my canopy in spring,
like a green parasol to keep the sun off my shoulders.
Tea parties had been held under there,
with I, as mast’ress of ceremonies,
serving apple juice with newtons made of fruit.
The tire swing had been my way to weightlessness,
the treehouse–a special place for the boys to go,
whilst my friend Kippie and I skipped rope–
ponytails bouncing to and fro.
The years have all run together,
for so swiftly did we move from the city to the country,
away from it all, my parents had said,
though all had been everything to me.
I can still hear our laughter ringing in the hollow,
the lure of yesteryear pulling at my heartstrings–
memories of sweeter summers, of warmer springs.
The family tree hasn’t thinned,
for its leaves are waxing full–
the older leaves becoming thinner as they age,
like the skin that covers our bones.
Its branches have reached far from this place,
but I go back to my roots,
in remembrance of my childhood trees.