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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

Dinah Hawken — The Tethering of Trees

page 26

Dinah Hawken

The Tethering of Trees

Is it that
a tree singly
cannot hold itself

or that we
on our own cannot hold
ourselves up?

Is it just to stop
the drunk kids or the blasting
winds uprooting them?

Perhaps it is simply
that each tree
is beautiful.

Hopelessly moveable.
Exotically out of place.

In New York city
during the cold war
I looked down on their intricacy,
their branching and their hardness
to be reminded and reminded.

Are we afraid
that in the grey early
morning they will heave up
out of the pavements
and run to the others?

they seem to know where they are.
Under them, you begin to hear
a sound, ancestral story.

We are trying to see through you,
trees, through your bark and phloem and rings,
through your foliage and camouflage to the centre
of the city where once a cathedral
stood and for an instant lived.

Is it that so wanting
to be born, to be singled out,
but not to bear
we could forget our fellowship
as we have forgotten the forest?

And if trees are coldish
and alien (which they are)
why are they so green?

My small back garden
is overflowing with green
allowing nothing else to be there
but air.

As for the grassy meadow
in spring above the river.

I can see now
that in the end,
when we are close to the ground
and our sights are down,
we will live on the edge
of a clearing and our home
will be a tangle where one thing
lies lightly upon another.

page 27

But where are we now?
If we get our bearings
from trees, where do they
get their bearings and their leanings?

Is it winter, and if so,
which winter and where?

Let us hear the under-story,
the speculation, the ground cover
that covers the leached soil
and the circle of roots.

Must we corner a tree:
the five-finger, houpara, ornamental,
in a tiled planter, unwatered.

What is the true story,
the one in the photograph,
and the one before the photographer
arrived to take the photograph?

You could never still
this foliage with words.
It just reminds me
to speak about the trees
from which we have come
and continue to come
without knowledge
of our true bearing.

Black and white photograph.

From ‘Foliage’, 1985