Climbing the Tree

Earl Livings

 

All truths wait in all things.
Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’

 

At first you are a cautious climber, moving

Only one limb at a time, testing

The bearing of each branch, pausing at

Each sign of muscle twitch, resting often

To consider every possible fall,

The impossibility of retreat, resisting

Always the burden of broken skin,

Intolerance of pulled muscles.

Soon you are stretching further, judging

Grip of weight and accustomed reflex,

Trusting gaps with the grace of muscle,

Climbing further, faster, with easy breath,

Enjoying the sway of branches as you sway.

 

One day you reach the highest junction

And sweep a glance of all possible moments—

From the pause of a spider on fractured bark

To the sudden wing beat above you.

From the silent crouch of your horizon

To the edge of a faint moon sifting nightfall.

From the gasp of joggers and cyclists

On the concrete perimeter of the river,

To the pealing of distant church bells.

 

That day, or another, a storm will dare you,

And you will ponder the glamour of lightning,

Rain-drops coincident with welcomed sweat,

Before you descend to gather your days.

 

Yet day after day it is never the same tree:

Always the split and broken boundaries of branches

And the slow accretion of living wood about the dead.

One day you will note the circus mass of spiders

Hatched into tree-fold and the wind’s tremor of web.

Two days later, when only silken shreds remain,

You ponder the fates of predator and prey.

 

And each time you notice the way your back eases

Into the veins of bark as you regard the span

Of leaf, branch and their embracing gaps,

Knowing one day you will never leave here.

 

Earl Livings has published poetry and fiction in Australia and also Britain, Canada, the USA, and Germany. He taught in the Professional Writing & Editing course for 17 years and is currently working on a novel and his next poetry collection. His writing focuses on nature, mythology and the sacred.

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