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i would rather be an oak than a eucalyptus

February 25, 2008

1832765104_d99c408f3e_o.jpgFor the Poetry Train this week, my offering is a poem based on a freewrite I did a few years ago out on Santa Cruz island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Ventucky. It was published in Artlife Limited Editions 20th anniversary issue as a concrete poem in the shape of the tree (which you can’t quite tell by this scanned image). I am not talented enough as a blogger to make a concrete poem in this space yet!

If you’ve read any of my recent posts about rituals and burning maybe you will see why I chose this poem for this week.

i would rather be an oak

i would rather be an oak
coast live oak: quercus agrifolia
hundreds of years old
a graceful granary for acorn woodpeckers
but to be a eucalyptus
wouldn’t be bad

i would grow fast & furious
vast horizontal branches
extending toward sunrise
& yes to the stars
heavy with leaves
i sweep the ground

i would be a huge billowy sail
with the wind we would r i d e
you could swing your way up to my crow’s nest
we’d find our way
you could hang on my branches
& bounce back

i would cover the ground with
my rich intoxicating menthol scent
a thick carpet of leaves
nothing can compete
the earth embraces me
damp & cool

i would be young forever
my peeling bark would never betray my age
a new skin every season on my limbs
freshly shaped & pruned with each passing storm
my leaves would never go gray
but always red & tawny, crisp & fresh

i would be home to virginia
great horned owl: bubo virginianis
sheltering her
she protects me from
corvus corax
: raven
ravenous, raucous, rude

hidden in my branches, she perches high
scoops up unsuspecting
spermophilous beechiyi: ground squirrels
devours them, digests them, regurgitates them
my carpet of leaves decorated with
skulls, ribs, tibias, teeth

no you wouldn’t leave children with me
i would be a grand & ferocious eucalyptus
elegant, colorful, intimidating
a maiden aunt not a matriarch
until a freeze does me in or
a fire weakens me and

fallen i become
porch for house wren
yard for sceloporous occidentalis: blue belly lizard
balcony for tyranus verticalus: western kingbird
nursery for peromyscus: deer mice
bench for humans

a blaze on the beach
my ashes would drift
& i would travel the earth
don’t brush me aside
let me land on your tongue
& you have me forever

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2008 2:33 pm

    I would like to call it a zen like thought. I like this a lot.

  2. February 25, 2008 5:33 pm

    My favorite part comes at the end when the tree still realizes its lifespan continues in its fallen and firewood forms. A nurturing and Mother Nature-like feel to those last stanzas.

  3. February 25, 2008 6:34 pm

    thank you both for your comments!

    i hadn’t thought it as zen like before! but i think i see what you mean!

    and yes, julia, i remember writing the poeice and having it evolve that way, discovering that in the wriitng process, and i really like that. it’s a fun poem to read a loud too, it’s performance oriented.

  4. February 25, 2008 10:26 pm

    I like the soothing feeling to this poem, and I would say like Gautami, it sounds zen!
    And imagine it, what a tree could tell us of history when some can live 200 years!

  5. February 26, 2008 4:39 am

    I like it, it’s a hopeful poem. :)

  6. March 17, 2008 1:41 pm

    I like how you imagine the whole ecosystem here and the fact that as Julia says the life of the tree continues past its falling down

  7. March 17, 2008 2:53 pm

    A wild ride through the adventures of a tree. Lots of vibrant energy.

  8. March 17, 2008 8:48 pm

    I love the interwebbing of the latin genus through the poem..

  9. March 17, 2008 8:51 pm

    I love all the wonderful descriptions!

  10. March 18, 2008 10:14 pm

    You could get cuddled by Koalas if you were a eucalypt too, it is very performance oriented in its long swung out rhythm but also a kind of performance as a poet in the words, it asserts its poemhood quite forcefully but does so with intelligence and a skill level that justifies its assertion, poem documenting performance as tree, cool,

  11. March 19, 2008 6:14 am

    thanks for all your comments!

    interesting that you notice the performance aspect paul as i wrote this after experiencing slam and performance poetry at the Taos Poetry Circus! and was definitely influenced by that

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