What is a tree
if not a seed’s way of making
a forest’s way of hiding
in plain sight? Within its folds
you might learn something useful
like ‘a boar betrays itself by rustling’
or ‘a log is never simply a log’.
On its flank a fungus grows
without need of a name
not any you can speak out loud. In the
absence of words, is it perception
that brings things into being? Then again
the trees get by just fine without you
branch after branch reaching out
to take you by the throat
cut the thread.
If every one had a bite taken
from it, would the essence of the apple
change? You could call off the hunt, bring
on the harvest, but you’ll never make
a silk purse from salad greens. Nor
will you swindle a sweeter prospect.
You must simply accept that one day
you’ll wake to find yourself looking up
from a platter on which your head
has been served—
as it is with moments
so with empires. For now though
you lie there, thinking
the length of the night
is a problem only for those
who can’t sleep.
As a tree is already a metaphor.
As you carve your initials into the trunk.
As though you ever had a choice.
As a delicacy paired with fennel and cabbage.
As you sniff out truffles in the soil.
As a shortcut is a side of ham.
As green wood burns reluctantly.
As a wound, trying to close.
As a promise supposes intention.
As a hole is known by what it doesn’t have.
As a tree takes priority over your idea of it.
As it is in itself
and continues to be.
Aden Rolfe is a Sydney-based writer. His debut poetry and essay collection, False Nostalgia, received the 2017 Mary Gilmore Award and was named by Mascara the best avant-garde poetry book of 2016. His poetry has been published in the Age, Best Australian Poems, Overland and Cordite.