When There Were Trees

By Upton, Lee | Field, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

When There Were Trees


Upton, Lee, Field


I can remember when there were trees,

great tribes of spruces who deckled themselves in light,

beeches buckled in pewter, meeting like Quakers,

the golden birch, all cutwork satin,

courtesan of the mountains; the paper birch

trying all summer to take off its clothes

like the swaddlings of the newborn.

The hands of a sassafras blessed me.

I saw maples fanning the fire in their stars,

heard the coins of the aspens rattling like teeth,

saw cherry trees spraying fountains of light,

smelled the wine my heel pressed from ripe apples,

saw a thousand planets bobbing like bells

on the sleeve of the sycamore, chestnut, and lime.

The ancients knew that a tree is worthy of worship.

A few wise men from their tribes broke through the

sky,

climbing past worlds to come and the rising moon

on the patient body of the tree of life,

and brought back the souls of the newly slain,

no bigger than apples, and dressed the tree

as one of themselves and danced.

Even the conquerors of this country

lifted their eyes and found the trees

more comely than gold: Bright green trees,

the whole land so green it is pleasure to look on it,

and the greatest wonder to see the diversity.

During that time, I walked among trees,

the most beautiful things I had ever seen.*

Watching the shadows of trees, I made peace with mine. …

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