Tree Spirit Woman
by Elizabeth A Sheppard
Rated "PG" by the Author.
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This is a poem-story about a tree woman, and what happened when she ventured out.
Tree Spirit Woman
Another grey, hazy morning.
I look out through my broken branches,
My leaves are veined in purple and red,
but they are open like carvings,
and screened like Moroccan windows,
Carved to protect my eyes and face
from a world unable to see me,
unable to imagine anything as precious.
I am sad for them,
as I am sad for myself.
Oh, I have waited for an Arthur,
a dragon, a magician!
Or at least another sister for too long.
I’m the same veiled princess, and
I see through this leafy filter, damaged.
Was I ever alive? Is this really living,
looking out of my prison here,
eye to knothole, knowing that
everyone who ever worshipped me
has moved on?
I cry out – no! no! I am alive, alive!
And my salt tears are bitter on my tongue.
I beat upon the dark loam inside my tree,
and dirt falls down on my bare feet.
Like my mothers before me,
I am bound here, by a magic force,
Dreaming my life away,
and today I want no more of it.
Now! Now! I bend my mind inward and focus.
I hear a cracking of the tree’s branches...
I can do it... I can do it... My head hurts
with the force of the attack.
There begins a small cracking,
and a piece of wood falls from beside me.
And another, and another.
And now! Now I push, hard.
I am moving out of the tree, at last.
But my feet are above the earthen floor,
and now my body goes forward,
floating, floating, out into the open air.
Oh! It’s magic – and I am happy!
I turn to see the open wound
in my tree’s side, broken by my escape.
Crooked now, my tree is broken,
but still stands.
No matter now. I need to go from here.
I turn around and float forward.
I am a Druid princess, and
I am an Indian princess, and
My life force has broken free of
my wooden prison.
I glide... I glide...
My eyes widen, and oh! They hurt!
I had forgotten how bright the sun was,
and I had forgotten how beautiful the world was,
In my dreaming,
hidden in my timeless dreaming.
My thoughts are still, but they are so full,
as my heart is full, and my heart is so full.
I feel some water on my cheek, and brush it off.
My eyes are misting.
I glide and glide ever forward,
and gaze outward and on either side
at the glorious world.
Where there were trees,
now there is a field.
Oh! what a field,
with rows and rows of corn,
brown and sturdy.
Where there were brooks,
now there is a bog.
Full of secrets... like others I have seen,
I pass my hand in blessing across the side.
Where there were flowers,
now there is grass, so soft!
And an old path
leads on, and then I take the path.
My hands bend in the new wind,
and I let them trail behind me, lazy.
The breeze carries my hair and tumbles it,
whispering in my ear, “I am here”.
My breath catches, and I am afraid,
yet my feet still have not touched the ground.
I have yet some power, though my tree
is left far behind in the field.
My magic holds for now.
What? Is someone speaking?
I turn towards the sound, and
for a second, I thought I could hear your voice.
And again, a voice!
“I am here...”
Who is it? Who are you? I turn around
and see nothing but grass, and hills,
the emptiness of autumn,
with cold leaves on cold ground.
And then I think of you.
Oh, did I have to think of you?
For now I wish I’d stayed to dream.
You, my darling, my only,
I miss you so much.
I called you my apple tree,
and I was your May Queen,
How careless we were then,
Now I have no cuts but these,
The cuts of memory, of our times together,
You and I, together, our trees side by side.
How we would dance in the meadow
and how we would twine our branches together,
laughing at the storms and laughing
because we were young and in love.
Every springtime when the world was new,
you were there with me,
dreaming together with me,
making memories with me,
together – together.
My head is bowed and I feel the weight
of my body slowing down, weighty with grief.
Why did you have to go, my husband?
“I am here,” I cry, and I hear the sound
echo through the wind, and do I hear an answer?
No, it must be the wind, only the wind.
The wind is blowing harder, that is all.
I have no fresh wounds to take my vision to the side,
I am unharmed, and though I am old, I still love.
I have only the fresh and fresher memories left to me,
catching, jagged. I ache for him.
And in my mind I see him standing before me,
tall, ragged as ever, loving as ever,
and his lovely crooked smile makes my heart catch.
And I know he is not there, you are not there;
it is only my memory,
playing tricks with my mind.
Sharp, acrid, long and lengthening like the end of days
is each one of my breaths whispering now,
with crackling brown and gold the wind echoes,
“I am here...”
It is like singing, but only an echo like past lives,
like past loves.
Like leaves, dead but attached to the bough,
the wind whispers and falls.
The colors of the leaves and grass
arise and fade - red, brown, green,
the world blurs as my eyes fill with tears.
And I glide on, turning around now, and
going another way, I am fading now,
slowly fading like the sun.
I just saw what never was -
I just saw only what I wanted to see.
Now I am back, inside my ruined tree,
back to my home, slow and dreamy I stand.
I move and freeze - only again moving and freezing.
My roots are deep - I must tear them out to get away.
But somehow I do not have the energy today.
How many days and days will I wake and be frozen?
I wither but still live,
and gaze upon the frosted silver grasslands with open eyes,
and then again I dream, crashing into the dream now,
speeding into it, falling into it.
Oh - today I will dream that I am drifting away,
and then I will find a mirage in the white winter desert,
A mirage that will be real – and there will be our home.
And there you will be, in a tent or in a tree’s shelter,
smiling your crooked smile,
and, kneeling, looking right there in my eyes.
And now I am there, seeing you, sitting there,
holding my hands to yours, warming them,
your hands so warm, and mine so cold,
your tears so warm and wet on my hand.
And you and I, my love, are falling down,
gently, softly falling like leaves,
we are dizzy with love and falling still,
I close my eyes and drink you in, the touch of you,
the scent of you, the warmth of you.
And I will hold you to me, close, forever.
And we will touch, glowing like night fireflies,
echoes of the stars,
Gently, and not so gently,
you and I kiss and kiss again,
and melt into this moment,
and you and the buffalo robe
and the night and the deep sky
will welcome me home.
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