A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
“What kind of times are these, when To talk about trees is almost a crime” ----Bertolt Brecht “...in times like these to have you listen at all, it’s necessary to talk about trees.” ----Adrienne Rich . 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.
Copyright 2021 Sandra Mitchell