I’ve been looking at poetry through a different lens lately. I write the poem — which is always the best first step, when you look at poetry… — and then wondering how it reflects my practice. It’s a fascinating process.
I’m one of those people who are more than a little tree crazy. My husband has warned every neighbour we’ve lived by in the past many years NOT to cut trees on our property line, or I may well go nuts. And it’s true — I do NOT prune lightly. Or badly. Some of our trees even have names. I mean in addition to genus and species.
So it was no surprise to have a poem about trees materialise on paper (or screen — this is one of those that I think came from a journal scribble, but who remembers…?). What was a bit unsettling was to realise that I can do a timeline of my life, and recognise what date it was by the trees that were important to me.
There’s the apricot my grandmother planted when I was born, the mimosas that used to hang over Grandma & Aunt Bonnie’s curb, the frangipani in Dr. & Mrs. McIntyre’s yard… all the way to Ramses the fancy pine in our front yard, or the two holly trees in the back.
Buddhism says all things have Buddha nature. Certainly trees must. On my door at work I have a picture of the tallest tree in the world, a redwood in California. The tiny red specks are people, in the tree’s branches. I can’t fathom such a being — this enormous, centuries-old tree — not having Buddha nature. Or consciousness, for that matter. You’re talking to someone who took Tolkien’s Ents seriously…
So the Buddhism in today’s poem may seem more latent than apparent. But believe me ~ it’s there.
A Lexicon of Trees
The apricot my grandmother planted the day
that I was born. She made me fried pies
in her mother’s skillet. I have it still.
The frangipani down the street from the villa
plumeria its real name. White and rose
and yellow flowers. Climbing with the ants
up its twisted trunk, I thought I was invisible.
The mimosa on 8th Street. Into late fall she
offered me feather flowers that desperate year
Perhaps she saved me.
And henna – white flowers in that barren
desert where I made a home, pruning twigs
that also did not fit. So much of love
is like this.
Japanese maple: scarlet against white dogwood
break of bloom. Shallow-rooted, it holds
Crape myrtle, cherry red and toddler pink
lace-edged corsage on the front
of a house where love
solved its first puzzles.
It is the way trees mark the verges
of this journey, their own dendritic
blossomspill leaffall barebranch.