Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Garden of Verse: My Poem on the "Symbiotic Community" of the Forest, after Reading "The Hidden Life of Trees"

 When is the wrong time to think about trees? I don't know, but this is clearly one of the right times. 
I wrote the poem below after reading The Hidden Life of Trees,by German forester and author Peter Wohlleben, which I'm being told is an international best-seller.
I was taken by his phrasing. Not only are trees social beings they are connected with other species such as fungi in a "symbiotic community" of the wild forest. They live life in "the slow lane," Wohlleben tells us. Very young trees, a kindergarten of saplings, are cared by "their mothers" who feed them nutrients through a fungal network. I wanted to get some of the poetic quality of the forester's vocabulary, or imagery, into this poem. Stimulated by the author's way of seeing the woodland as a social network and trees as planful elders looking out for their own best interests by looking out for those of all their 'neighbors,' I tried to imagine life as the trees -- the people of the forest -- experience it.

The 'Symbiotic Community' of the Forest

They know us from the roots
They talk about the weather,
exchanging chemical news
When their fungal fibers clasp hands in the morning
The sky is theirs, to do with as they wish
Appendages finger the air
and take hold of aerie elements
invisible to other eyes,
their thousands of greenie digits
flying in place through the winds of the world

Stalwart defenders of the right to grow
nerves probing deep in the hidden land of subsoil
amid glacial memories of the icemen
who walked the earth
the dominators, rulers of the shape of things
until we came along

Tendrils flipping through the library of time,
they know us from the taste of earth
the rain with its acid tinge
the smoke of the ubiquitous compounds
of the ceaseless back-and-forth
the dry rain of transport

They know us from the leaf,
the air, the color of the lights
the bent, frazzled music of our passing,
the foot-dragging alterations of our artificial suns,
our many, many star-chambers fixed on imitation trees
made of their dead,
shiny heads upon their stakes
their flesh flensed and wound about the quadrants of our dwellings,
great woody bandages defending the empty air inside

They know us by their buried nerves
streaming through arterial currents
the tidings of the under-earth
They know our flavor, and our angry moods
Our burning love to be somewhere else
Our burials, our hidden wastes
Our smokes, and floods of mineral leaks,
our fences and our wars
They know, and still they turn
their flesh-fed banners to the sky

Lots more poems in the November 2017 issue of Verse-Virtual.