Here is the 43rd poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
Trees are like hands, like life’s blackened fingers
reaching and searching up to the sky
pursuing the light like seeking out meaning
with patience and wisdom too slow for the eye.
They climb to the future by facing it blindly
ready to change and adapt on a whim
untroubled by sight, learning only from feeling
severed or broken they just re-begin.
I like my trees naked
in winter I see them just as they are
their lives have a pattern whose beauty depends
on endurance, more than hope or despair.
I’m not the only writer I know who has noticed this: but as I get older my fiction (and poetry) tends to predict events in my own life about 6 months into the future. Very weird, or some kind of psychological illusion, I’m not sure which. I’ve stopped even remarking upon the amount of coincidence in my life. For instance, right now I am reading a book about a prisoner trying to go straight after prison, then I get an email asking me to become a judge for the Koestler Awards, then I watch a film which unbeknownst to me revolves around a judge agonising over the morality of judging criminals. Etcetera.
When I wrote this poem, I don’t think all that much had happened yet for me to endure. But six months later, with my father dead (and various other family issues in meltdown over it), I found it very useful to send to my mother, who I believe found it quite consoling and therapeutic.
We soldier on. And to quote an earlier poem in the sequence “It is only what we are brave against that makes us beautiful”. Some of the poems and stories I’m reading right now by prisoners and detainees are superb actually: these guys don’t need to be told that writing is a way to self-knowledge and reconciliation. They are living it. We all have guilt and hurt to deal with. The world doesn’t need your next attempt at a J K Rowling. It needs truth. Your truth, my truth, all truth. But how seldom it gets it.
The tree photographs above are all by Rona MacDonald.