interrupting tree

a poem

Say, my good lad, you there—yes, you!

Young man in the smock and the baseballer’s hat

Up here! Come close, don’t be scared, don’t start!

You’re quaking, my boy, like a storm-stunned cat

Why, surely you know the occasional oak

Does talk, as the water-side willow does weep,

And the aspen quakes, and the poplar—No?—

Come close, I say, take a seat against me

My bark shan’t bite, though it’s lost in the years

It’s Stradivari-various oaken hue

So rougher it—oh, quite sturdy, you say?

Your old man’s politeness has rubbed off on you.

Indeed, I was known to your father, back then

Fine chap, in his very own campus days

On this very Main Green he trod—I remember

That spring, on a rainy night like this—

(Bother!

Could I ask you a minute to itch me, there

On the trunk—lower—oh my—

That’s divine, I was scratched last in

September by a rubbish cart in haste

That’s lovely.)

Well! To be frank, I remember your dad

The more for the beauty that graced your mum

Miss Margaret Stace, the admirers she had

(Including a certain now-

Bewhiskered Comp

Lit Professor I’ll not name

For trees keep secrets.)

Your mother, down yonder steps she’d come

Skirted by a gaggle of goose-pimpled heads

Each bearing one of her books. Meanwhile,

Sitting where you sit now, your father read

Some Tennyson ballads, and under his Oxford

Collar a berry-dark blush would spread

As your mother passed—

—Forgive me, son

I’m embarrassing you

With my maudlin talk of love

It is the rain

The sink of the rain

The spring-dewed new-sprung sink of the rain

That sets me afire from root to—pray, don’t scoff

If a woodchuck could chuck trees

Then a tree can speak of love.

What of you, young man, with your clever young face

And your mother’s nose, and your father’s gait

This Weekend of Spring, are you aiming to chase

Some charming young lady? Or a gentleman?

Again, you blush, how abashed you are

Like a fledgling robin in his first spring song

A first-year—my—unaccustomed to flings

And shy of the crowd and the maddening throng?

Not shy, you protest, only quiet, a bit

On the nice side, rather have a chat than a drink

Preferring to woo to the sweet violin

Than the soul-sick subwoofer’s pound, I think

There’s merit to that (On a personal note,

Though, viols can’t sing like the hermit thrush

That’s a bird, you know, from before your time

A songbird lovely as the rain.) You must

Think old trees fret at the grince and slog

Of grass tramped brown by the weekend’s feet

Of spirits downed and spilled by careless

Hands, of cigarettes crushed by thoughtless

Soles making merry to a graceless beat.

Not so, my friend! Look around you now

At the lawn as fresh as it was in old

King George’s day, and fresh it remains

Even as hot youth under it lies, grown cold

With the music expired, the dance forgot

The dancers to dust, their good fight fought.

Only you, my friend,

Descendant of those

Who dance no more, can dance.

Like your dear old dad,

On the warm spring night

When, approaching your mother with quivering lip

And perhaps-ing, asked if he might, for a night,

With the band playing slow,

And the bugle-sound bright,

If he might just have this dance?

(You know as well as I, the end—your father trod on

Her toes and she went home with Willy Harris, or was it

Harry Williams? Well, life

Is long and sometimes happy.)

Great God! I have kept you long past dark

And suffered you to let a cankered red

Oak warble the twilight away and forsake

Your pressing work, no doubt, I’ve said

Enough, run along! Go gentle indoors

Into that good light where you sleep, sup, plot,

Play, do what it is you do, that I

Outside, in the green, can speak of not.

Good night! Should you see me here on the eve

Of the show, for goodness sakes, don’t stop

Like a fool to chat, best attempt to forget

That the night is watched by none but the drunken

Woods, and the trees that have seen it all

Before. Hope less, that you might one day

Do more, I bid you. Goodnight!