Friday, May 4, 2012

Arbor Day Ironies

It was Arbor Day last week, the last Friday of April. Near my office, developers celebrated by clear-cutting a buttload of beautiful old trees.

I wanted to stand nearby and yell, "You're doing it wrong!"

I don't know what they're putting into the space they cleared, but I sure hope it's a Panera. God knows we could use another one of those.

As a belated tree-honoring, I'm posting a poem by Mark Haddon (best known for his novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) that makes me happy, in which the trees seem to emerge victorious. This is from his book, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, which is not only home to some interesting poems, it has one of the coolest covers ever (yes, that wheely thing at the edge actually rotates, allowing you to pick which of the title's figures you see).

I like this poem for
A) The amazing line about the school of fish, which is so perfect as a description of how a cluster of leaves moves in a wind.
B) Because it's a tree poem that echoes Joyce Kilmer's most famous tree poem. Which, to be honest, I think is a poem gooey enough to make people dislike both poems and trees. So to read a tree poem that has the same echo of humility about how paltry poetry is compared with the natural world--but that's understated and funny and non-goopy--was delightful for me.
C) Because in this poem, the trees win.


They stand in parks and graveyards and gardens.
Some of them are taller than department stores,
yet they do not draw attention to themselves.

You will be fitting a heated towel rail one day
and see, through the louvre window,
a shoal of olive-green fish changing direction
in the air that swims above the little gardens.

Or you will wake at your aunt’s cottage,
your sleep broken by a coal train on the empty hill
as the oaks roar in the wind off the channel.

Your kindness to animals, your skill at the clarinet,
these are accidental things.
We lost this game a long way back.
Look at you. You’re reading poetry.
Outside the spring air is thick
with the seeds of their children.


Karla said...

Great post and poem (Haddon's, not Kilmer's; yes I blame her). I think I might have that dog at night-time book, having heard sometime it was good I probably ordered it on and put it among the other trees-and-trees-worth of books I'm pretending I'll read sometime.

M. C. Allan said...

Hey Karla, I haven't read it yet either. It's currently serving as furniture somewhere in the house, but I will read it one day! I will I will I will.

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