In September 2017 I supported Kath Burlinson, Paul Oertel and Nancy Spanier on a Discipline of Freedom workshop in France with members of the Authentic Artist Collective. I wrote this poem while I was there, in a beautiful studio in the heart of the wooded Dordogne region. My lovely non-fiction book group back in Edinburgh met during that week and the book of the month was The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wolhleben; this is the poem about trees I had promised to send in my absence. The performance artist mentioned in the piece is the beautiful Lucia Lutonska. I am touched that when Lucia chose to share her stories and drawings at the recent 10th anniversary party of the Authentic Artist Collective in London, this poem was read by the fabulous spoken word artist Rachel Amey.
The only metaphor you’ll ever need
In all your jumper cable days.*
In this room, on a French chestnut floor
Stands a woman who lets fall leaves,
Unique pictures which all tell the same
Story. Some fall, some she holds close
To her heart, shows us how this one tells
Of a magical plant which holds the seeds
Of every story, dust drifting across the
Land in search of story hearers, and the
Songs that float on the water since time
Immemorial, weathering everything.
‘Have I ever told you, my dear, how all
The worlds are born?’ Have you ever
Listened to the secrets sung in the
Branches or heard under your hand
The pull of invisible currents of rising sap
Or breathed in the news that the trunk
Transmits through each twig or bowed
Down after craning your neck towards
The crown of the tree to gaze below ground
At the cathedral of roots that reflect wood’s
Majesty in generous, foundational realms?
Have you stood the soles of your feet on the
Chestnut floor and taken in the vibrating
Pulse of others around you who in your
Forest surround you, your mystery connecting
To theirs, their root-riven history as much
Magnificently yours? Or tricked yourself into
Going down to the woods unsure of the big
Surprise of beech nut bounty or fungi fun or wild
Boar butt scratching or sapling school-yard
Hopscotch or a squirrel, owl or wood pigeon
Hoedown, a finger-painted butterfly ball of tree-
Speakers, leaf squeakers and long-pronged bug-
Chompers, mulching much into the recipe of light,
Dark till home-time dilemmas, bed time, let-go
tumble time, crumble down turn back to dust time?
* Mary Burmeister, Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner, would say ‘this is the only hold you’ll ever need in all your jumper cable days’ referring to the energetic capabilities of human touch. I’d never heard this phrase till today and have never experienced this kind of body work but like the idea that one thing/action/symbol/verse/thing can contain everything if you let it.