I’ve never written a poem about trees…
by Diana Manole
Young, I didn’t see the trees, but only the forest
rushing to cross it and reach that flickering clearing
that spelled out h-o-p-e
on a rising slope.
Middle-aged, I didn’t see the forest, but only the trees,
marvelled at them
the same species but always different
and gave them fitting names.
John was a poplar, skinny and tall
certain he’d keep growing until he reached
just to say "Hello!"
Lena was my best friend
a birch so white and graceful that next to her
I always looked dark and gloomy and
with no clue
how to make do.
Elliott was a walnut tree with 39 wives,
loving women who surrounded him every night
and danced, and danced, and danced
until they got holes in their soles and left
letting him be.
Giuliana was a dwarf yew who lured in
men with a poisonous coral berry
and every ten years rushed one of them
to the cemetery.
Joe was a baby maple tree
cursing the day when he took roots there where
syrup was blood and blood changed colours
and coming of age meant being
drilled, forced to carry buckets
like a mule
and carefully exsanguinated.
Billie was a horse chestnut tree
who fancied himself European
and with edible fruits.
Don was a beech that loved me dearly
and swore that if I were a tree
he’d marry me instantly.
I was a middle-aged woman talking to trees
to forgive and forget all the lovers
who climbed up on me just to find a place
from where to launch themselves
When I died
I finally noticed the blossoming weeds
I stepped on
now sprouting straight up from my
for others to walk on
Diana Manole is a Romanian-Canadian writer, translator, and scholar. A Pushcart nominee, her poetry in English (translated into same—or written originally therein) has appeared in magazines in the US (The Lunch Ticket, Third Wednesday, Absinthe: A Journal of World Literature in Translation, Cutthroat, The Loch Raven Review, The Chattahoochee Review), the UK (POEM), Canada (Grain, The Nashwaak Review, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, untethered, Event), and South Africa (Prufrock).
Nora’s Iuga collection of poems, The Hunchbacks’ Bus (Bitter Oleander, 2016), co-translated with Adam J. Sorkin, has been longlisted by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) for the 2017 National Translation Award in Poetry (winners announced in Oct 2017). Since February 2013, Diana dreams and writes poems in English.
“Green in the Woods”
Ashley Parker Owens’s artwork, “Green in the Woods,” not only inspired this poem but has actually helped me look “down” after many years of only looking “up.” As a teen growing up in a communist dictatorship that tried to enforce atheism upon us, the forest gave me the feeling of a cathedral where I could “feel” and “talk” to God because true spiritual freedom became possible – a place where I didn’t have to worry that someone might had come to church only to report us to the secret police (Ceauşescu’s infamous “Securitate”) or that the priest himself could be a secret informant. But I was always in a rush and never paid attention to the forest’s life. Only in recent years, I started looking at the trees and marvelled at how they were the same species but different. Like human beings. Ashley’s close up of a plant with flowers superimposed over the wide shot of a forest helped me understand that in my walks I have casually stepped over grass, and flowers, and maybe even ants, the same way I might have sometimes ignored quiet but loving people, discreet but potentially life-changing opportunities, and the beauty of details. It also made me remember a popular Romanian belief that night fairies danced around walnut trees and the man who saw them was cursed to long for such a woman for the rest of his life.
My big thanks to Ashley and With Painted Words for the gift of a journey through my inner woods.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'A Blade of Grass Between Two City Stones'
'Boticelli on a half shell'