Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael Simms: The Parliament of Trees

I wanted to tell you 
How I grew up outside Houston, the edge
Of the suburbs, wandering the woods
 
And bayous, following the railroad tracks
Deep into the sugar cane fields, but I kept thinking
Of Swamp Thing, a monster,
 
An amalgam of mud and water lilies,
Vines and cattails, a dripping thing
In human shape living in the swamp,
 
Protecting plants and animals,
And I was remembering the deep woods
Of oak and sycamore where pools of water
 
Were alive with frogs and minnows,
And how if you stood still long enough
The frogs sang ohm like an army
 
Of Buddhists and one 
Sweltering afternoon I watched
Two older boys with a net skeining
 
A pond and pulling out fish and 
Netting a turtle which they beat
With sticks until the shell
 
Cracked and the naked turtle writhed
And the sun dried its flesh, a wanton
Unspeakable crime. And I went home 
 
To read my comic book 
The Swamp Thing in which Dr. Anton Arcane 
And his nightmarish Army 
 
Of Un-Men sought the evil ones 
Who murdered his wife, and in the middle 
Of the night my father caught me
 
With a flashlight under the covers,
And said we had to talk, and he
Accused me of talking back to my mother
 
And when his fist hit my belly
I felt it sink deep all the way
To my spine, and when he pulled it out
 
I thought I heard a sucking noise
Like a boot pulled from mud, 
And I knew he could no longer hurt me.

*

The next morning I rode my bicycle to
Wolf Corner where coyotes and dogs were
Hung on a wooden rack to discourage coyotes 
 
From stealing calves, and the story was
That Comanches hung scalps
There to scare the whites, but 
 
The whites came anyway and stayed 
And my Irish-Cherokee ancestors 
Ranched there, and later 
 
I lay in the dark and thought 
Of the snapping turtle the boys killed, 
How it could take off a finger, and 
 
An alligator gar, a monster
Left over from the dinosaurs, 
Could rend flesh if you 
 
Weren’t careful, but it wasn’t violent.
It was almost tender. To show me
It didn’t hurt, he did it to himself,
 
Slipping the table knife
Into his anus. I was eight.
He was the older boy next door.
 
He was my best friend and all
I knew of love. Afterwards
I went into the woods alone
 
And sat on a log beside the bayou, 
Watching the slow water with
The mud and rotting vegetation,
 
Deer coming to the water’s 
Edge early in the morning, 
The possums and foxes, the wild dogs
 
That lived in the woods, free 
From the leash and chain link fence.
I imagined myself a swamp thing, 
 
Guarding the trees and animals.
But over the next few years, the trees 
Were toppled and burned 
 
In huge bonfires, and Scarlett O’Hara 
Mansions and Roy Rogers haciendas
And Frank Lloyd Wright knockoffs 
 
Rose in obscene excess, the stream 
Channeled through cement pipes 
To invisibly carry sewage underground. 

*

I mourned for the trees, 
The possums, the gars, and the turtles.
And I lay in the dark defiantly reading
 
With my flashlight under the covers
Of Swamp Thing, one of the Elementals
Born when a being dies in flames 
 
And merges with the Earth, 
The Elementals became protectors 
Of plants and animals throughout history,
 
Eventually joining the Parliament of Trees, 
A group mind of former Elementals. 
Over time the membership grew with beings
 
Such as Eyam -- a trilobite,
Swamp Knucker – a dragon, 
Bog Venus -- a medicine woman, 
 
Ghost Hiding in the Rushes – 
A 3rdcentury Chinese sorcerer, 
And of course, me, Swamp Thing 
 
--An early 20th-century scientist.
Until recently, the Parliament 
Was stationed in a grove
 
In Brazil, south of the Tefé River,
While our minds dwelled 
In the realm of the Green.
 
And lying in the dark, with 
My anus bleeding, throbbing in pain, 
I imagined myself, one
 
Of the elementals, able to 
Transcend pain and defend
The children. And once
 
United with the Parliament
Of Stones, we set out to destroy
Humankind for their sins against
 
The Earth. We had to fight off
The fungus-based Grey,
Invaders from another world
 
Who preached peace while
Actually helping humans with
Their lies. Our allies were
 
The heavenly power called
THE WORD which passed on
All their power to Swamp Thing,
 
Me, who refused in the last 
Second, giving humanity another
Chance, a few good people,
 
Mothers and children who
Survived the massacre at
The hands of THE WORD.
 
And the Parliament of Trees
Is now eternally burning
In the realm of the Green.
-----

Copyright 2019 Michael Simms

6 comments on “Michael Simms: The Parliament of Trees

  1. Andrea Hollander
    June 6, 2019

    Hauntingly powerful. Thank you, Mike. This is one of those poems I will keep returning to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 6, 2019

      Thank you, Andrea! I admire your work as well. I’m so glad you’ve continued publishing with AHP. You’re a valuable member of the team!

      Like

  2. writehandpy
    June 6, 2019

    I’ve just skimmed Parliament of Trees, and will return to it when I have time to read slowly enough to do it justice.. But WOW … I think you have a brave masterpiece here! Thank you for sharing!!!

    Like

  3. Arlene Weiner
    June 6, 2019

    Sad and wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 6, 2019

      Thank you, Arlene. I admire your poetry a great deal: the precise language, the sad nostalgia, the wicked sense of humor.

      Like

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