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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Theories of Crown Shyness

by Debbie Lim

There are theories why we should not touch. They say

abrasion, sunlight, infestation — and we nod like sages,


our mouths full of leaves. Only in storms do we bend,

pendulous, sway cheek-to-cheek. Our aching arms


are bark-flensed, twig-lashed, their bashful growing tips

briefly forgotten. Sometimes a passion stirs within —


ticking beetle, petiole, rising sap. My anthers (they tell me)

are dorsifixed and dehiscing. To be direct, I am afraid


daily of the insect pilgrimage, the caravan of devastation

a single trespass brings. All summer long I grew tall


in heat and haze, lulled by your ether’s proximity.

Have you noticed lately all the ash? These mornings,


I wake frequently covered in dust. Yet remember that

other life when we lay on the forest floor, stippled,


dripping silence? Had we looked up, we’d have seen

how the canopies almost touched: their edges a jigsaw


of perfected cracks, sentenced in light.

Crown shyness: A naturally occurring phenomenon where trees of certain species grow such that they avoid touching, forming channel-like ‘cracks’ between their canopies.

Published: March 2020

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.