Theories of Crown Shyness

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.


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