Elegy for a tree

Anne M. Carson

 

Golden Ash: Fraxinus excelsior ‘Aurea’

 

Under the arms of the silver birch I find another diminutive forest

of golden ash seedlings, a spreading bonsai under-storey, taken root.

I pull them out, one after the other, feeling the stem’s wiry strength,

the moment of grip before release, how life hangs on. They colonise

 

all the corners of the garden, any foothold they can find purchase.

Every few weeks there are more miniature plantations, another crop

hidden under seaside daisies or by the acanthus clump. Only since

the mother tree came down, never before. How do they know to sprout?

 

What sets them ticking? It was not the tree’s fault that the neighbour’s

drain masqueraded as underground watercourse, pulling the roots irresistibly.

Fault or not, the tree was felled. Not how they used to bring trees down –

battle with a worthy adversary, the necessity of brute strength then

 

the dreadful glory of an almighty crash, the sound ringing out through

the forest – a last post.  But, here, this was piecemeal dismemberment

with no honour in it. I could hardly watch. The night before the loppers

arrived I went out for farewell, for warning, as if the tree could suck

 

it’s life force back into the earth somehow, protect itself from the

chainsaw’s teeth. I put my palms to the bark, rested my forehead

against strength. Acquiescence to the inevitable but I grieved for the

grandeur of the tree, gift of a cool summer canopy, arabesque

 

of arms in winter, the palette of colours its leaves painted on the

autumn sky. Now its offspring are charged with the challenge of life.

It’s been months; still they slip their periscopes through the soil and

when no-one is looking, triumphant, they unfurl another green banner.

 

Anne M. Carson has been published widely in literary journals in Australia and also internationally. Removing the Kimono was published in 2013. In 2015 she was commended in the Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize. She is looking for a publisher for Massaging Himmler: A Poetic Biography of Dr Felix Kersten. www.annemcarson.com

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