Tree Talk

By Claire Bateman

Featured Image: Trees by Maurice Prendergast 1918

Everywhere in town you hear:
“The forest’s on the move again”—
our forest!
Not ours, exactly,
but we feel it to be so,
since its visitation
ensnares our limbs
as, at every crosswalk,
neighbors duck and flinch,
weaving carefully through, apparently,
nothing at all—
forgive me, I’ve neglected to describe
our forest’s unparalleled clarity
from pine-tips to underbrush,
its streams, its spiders,
its (presumably) spotted fawns
tremulous, poised for flight—
“Our transparent forest,”
I should have said!
Impossible, of course,
to hide, to hunt, to lose one’s way!
Thus, we are reduced
to uneasy picnics in a vitreous shade
not wholly without shimmer.
Then, just as we’ve begun to settle in,
discerning where to place our feet,
grope for berries,
seek out the heaviness of honeycomb,
with a rustle and groan,
it’s gone,
having abandoned us
to elsewhere bear

its rough and leafy patronage,
its boughs of varying heft,
which our clumsy passings-through
had forced back till they rebounded,
scoring our faces
even as they sprinkled us
with resin-dew
(or, in that woods’ itinerant winter,
mild scatterings of unseen snow).

Claire Bateman is the author of Wonders of the Invisible World forthcoming from 42 Miles Books, and eight other poetry books. She has been awarded Fellowships from the NEA, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and has received the New Millennium Writing Award (twice) and two Pushcart Prizes. She has taught at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, Clemson University and various conferences, including Bread Loaf and the Bloch Island Poetry Festival. She is also a visual artist.

Originally appeared in NOR 7

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