Sandra Mitchell: To have you listen at all, I have to stop talking
“What kind of times are these, when
To talk about trees is almost a crime”
“...in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.”
To have you listen at all, I have to stop talking.
Words have been stripped of their sense,
Bleached of their nuance.
They have lost all their hair to the toxic chatter
Being peddled as a cure-all.
Reason has been gagged
Its prophetic eye bulging in disbelief.
It is hard to know what not to believe
These days too much to choose from.
A smorgasbord of lies and deceits
Reeking of fermented fish.
To have you listen, first
I implore you to close your eyes
To still the streaming pixelated afterimages
Of the horrors of the day.
More grotesque somehow
With their false colors and bleeding edges.
Then, I will hand you an oak leaf
And let you feel its truth.
Its shape has been stamped
By centuries of survival.
Its texture an echo of the season.
The leaf-feel is a momentary expression
Of pliant spring green, an autumn-crisp red edge, the crumbling brittleness of winter.
The real message is in the trunk of the tree.
Every drop of water, every gasp in times of drought,
Each attack of an axe edge or an antler scrape is recorded
In the rings spinning beneath the bark.
In times like these, to get you to listen,
I must show you how
To grasp history with your hands.
Sandra Mitchell is a distinguished professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.