Lessons from Trees

lessons from trees: i.

I spend a lot of time thinking about trees.
You took my hand once and cried,
“Look, there are roots beneath your skin!”
mapping the chutes of my veins with
your fingertips that were callused like bark.
“Or branches,” I said,and you looked at me
without any filter in your gaze,
and it felt wholly like basking in sunlight.
“Let’s branch out together,”
you whispered, so lightly
that it may have merely been my thought.
Now I visit the forest like a holy ground
as a barefoot sinner in a house of towering deities.
I don’t know what answers I am searching for,
but I am looking,
oh god I am looking.

lessons from trees: ii.

The city makes me feel unholy,
closer to the damned
so I spend too much time
keeping track of the ground.
I play hopscotch with my eyes
and wish there were fewer things
that made me think of those nights in your too-small bed
and those Thursday night talk sessions in my car:
Sleeping like plots of untouched soil,
driving like a pebble skipping over water.
The sidewalk feels too hard under my feet,
and on this side of town, it’s practically a path of rubble.
I watch it like an empire unhinging, a legacy imploding.
I rule the ruins I encounter.
A sliver of dirt grins between the concrete blocks
and a newly awoken tree stretches in the shape of a Y,
just shorter enough than three inches for me to know it doesn’t stand a chance,
just taller enough than two inches for me to hope it stands a chance.
It’s pathetic.
It’s courageous.
I dribble a sip of water on the little plant from my water bottle
because it has given my eyes some green in this desert of gray cityscape
and because my tears won’t rain anymore.
It teaches me something about taking whatever lot I was given
and sprouting.

lessons from trees: iii.

I watch the wind by the path it moves,
the domino effect of its force
charging trunks and tickling leaves.
The trees sway with a wiggle in their hips
as I grow nauseous from their movement
and the way they almost embrace each other,
but never quite.
The shush of their branches shaking
must be like the shush of foamy creak water
but a different language with the same sounds.
And I hear, to my ear,
“Be green, help others, stand tall
towards the sun, but dance when you’re
moved to” and I take it to heart.

lessons from trees: iv.

I saw your old roommate the other day
and he looked at me like I was only a stump:
sort of sad for me, surprised I was still around.
“How is…” I tried, but he amputated our conversation
and only said, “Just fine. I have to get going.”
I only wanted a taste, a bite out of the oranges in his shopping cart
of you, and maybe a glance out of his memory from this morning
of you.
I bought the shampoo you use so I could smell that kind of coconuts
again.
The oak in my backyard is crooked from the fence my dad built
when it was still sprouting.
He was going to cut it ten summers ago, but
I begged him to let it reach up.
I must have known then that trouble doesn’t make us pretty,
can’t change what happened, but
can change where you go, from there.
I must’ve forgotten that
but I remember now.

lessons from trees: v.

You changed the way your voice sounded
when you spoke about me;
last year it was honey and sweet corn,
last time we spoke it was straw and first frost.
Apples to thornbushes,
Song birds to sands.
By the end,
I had to cover my ears
when you said my name.
I was waiting at the bus stop this morning
and the wind tousled a cluster of leaves
behind me, in the way of a shuffling pair of boots.
It’s all just dead skin, dead weight, I thought,
kicking the leaves back to the wind.
“You need to move on,” you told me
a month after you left.
A month!
Who learns to breathe without lungs
after only a month?
“Try photosynthesis,” you said,
and I hung up the phone.
I cursed the leaves, tried to make
leaf angels out of their deviance.
I should have known better.
But autumn is so beautiful
because there’s no holding on,
only release,
and a long cold exhale
that makes us feel lighter within.
In the November
the trees let go and grow on
and I do the same.

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