THE LIFE OF TREES

by Dorianne Laux

 

The pines rub their great noise

into the spangled dark, scratch

their itchy boughs against the house,

that moan’s mystery translates roughly

into drudgery of ownership: time

to drag the ladder from the shed,

climb onto the roof with a saw

between my teeth, cut

those suckers down.  What's reality

if not a long exhaustive cringe

from the blade, the teeth. I want to sleep

and dream the life of trees, beings

from the muted world who care

nothing for Money, Politics, Power,

Will or Right, who want little from the night

but a few dead stars going dim, a white owl

lifting from their limbs, who want only

to sink their roots into the wet ground

and terrify the worms or shake

their bleary heads like fashion models

or old hippies. If trees could speak,

they wouldn't, only hum some low

green note, roll their pinecones

down the empty streets and blame it,

with a shrug, on the cold wind.

During the day they sleep inside

their furry bark, clouds shredding

like ancient lace above their crowns.

Sun. Rain. Snow. Wind. They fear

nothing but the Hurricane, and Fire,

that whipped bully who rises up

and becomes his own dead father.

In the storms the young ones

bend and bend and the old know

they may not make it, go down

with the power lines sparking,

broken at the trunk. They fling

their branches, forked sacrifice

to the beaten earth. They do not pray.

If they make a sound it's eaten

by the wind. And though the stars

return they do not offer thanks, only

ooze a sticky sap from their roundish

concentric wounds, clap the water

from their needles, straighten their spines

and breathe, and breathe again.

 

Copyright Dorianne Laux. Excerpted by permission from Facts About the Moon, Norton publishers 2007. Winner of the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry, from the Oregon Book Awards. For more information on the book, go to http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-0393060969-0

Dorianne Laux lives in Eugene where she teaches in the University of Oregon Creative Writing Program. She also teaches in Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program.