April 12, 2016

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Poetry Friday: Under the Surface

Happy Poetry Friday!

Your host is Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
at Today's Little Ditty. Stop by TLD
for all of this week's poetry links.

This week, there was a story in the news that settled down in mind to sit. I don't know what it will lead to -- a poem, an idea for a story -- but I want to know more about the young man whose skeleton was part of a tree.

Read about it at io9.
The medieval skeleton was discovered in Ireland when violent storm uprooted a 200 year old beech tree. The journal Irish Archaeology describes it thus, "In a scene that must have been quite macabre, the upper part of the skeleton was found raised in the air within the tree’s root system, while the legs remained in the ground." Who was he? What is his story? 

For me, the news isn't just about a skeleton. Part of the story's pull is the storm powerful enough to uproot a tree. I have deep memories of just such a storm, a hurricane, that blew through our town when I was in second grade. Trees were uprooted in our yard. It was a wonder to see the exposed roots in all of their complicated tangle. And what a gift to me and my brothers -- where the rain filled in the hole at the base of the tree, there were tiny ponds to play in.

In a lightning strike of serendipity, I've been reading GOOD WITH ORANGES (Broadkill River Press) this week. It is a collection of poems by my friend Sid Gold.

Order the book
at Broadkill River Press.
Check out "Clear Intent."

Clear Intent
by Sid Gold

The other night a storm
buzzsawed through & brought down
that 40-foot beech with a crack
like a hammer & chisel carving stone.

A spear of lightning struck it
near ground level, splitting the trunk
along its height like a gutting knife
& now the limbs lay splayed
& bleaching like some monstrous skeleton,
the bones, perhaps, of an untold constellation.

Soon a work crew will arrive, men
of clear intent carrying chains & saws
like briefcases, their tongues
still sour with sleep. Hired for a task
of someone else's choosing, they may
have room for nonsense in their hearts,
but have learned to keep it close
while on someone else's clock.

That towering beech, some of us
surely believe, still had much to say
about things for which we often
cannot find the proper words.
Others, living in some other moment,
prefer to turn a deaf ear.

About this poem, Sid explains, "I live in an aging apt. complex (1943), which, I'm told, displaced untouched forest land. The buildings are old enough to have been the products of architects, who designed the layout of the property so as to allow for a number of original growth trees to grace the lawns fronting the building entrances. Unfortunately, a few years ago, two large, very old & diseased trees positioned not far from my own entranceway had to be cut down & limbs & pieces of their trunks, etc., lay on the lawn for some days until carted away. One of the trees was struck by lighting & some heavy limbs came down. That's probably how the disease was discovered. There's more to the poem, of course, but that's one place it started. I have photos of the trees, luckily, but I still miss them."

Sid Gold's third book is GOOD WITH ORANGES (Broadkill River Press, 2015). He is a two-time recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in journal such as Poet Lore, the Southern Poetry Review and Tar River Poetry. A native New Yorker, he lives in Hyattsville MD.

Sid is very active in my local literary community -- a mentor to and encourager of his fellow poets. You can read a full interview with Sid Gold at Delphi Quarterly.

Thank you, Sid, for allowing me to share this poem today. I'm still thinking about that skeleton.


Robyn Hood Black said...

Well, this post came together nicely, Laura - thanks to you and Sid for sharing the poem ["buzzsawed - :0) ], and thanks for the link to that bizarre bit of news I'll go read about now...!

Linda B said...

I did see about that tree and the discovery of the skeleton. It causes me to imagine what lurks beneath our ancient trees. I saw the end of a downed sequoia years ago, and haven't forgotten the sight. It was its own secure habitat. I like "still had much to say" in Sid's poem, which has a rather stoic voice, but gives a little love for that tree. Because of our unusual amounts of rain in May, more than one old pines fell over, roots too wet to hold on. It was sad to see so many down. Thanks, Laura.

Sally Murphy said...

I love the way your post came together. I also was fascinated about that skeleton and also the news this week of very ancient skeletons in a cave in Africa. Back to the trees, I live across the road from a strip of bush (Australian word for forest) which is relatively untouched by all the clearing that went into making my suburb, but have been watching a tree die over the past year or so and wondering when it will fall, or if it will be chopped. So sad to watch, but in this case I'm fairly sure its natural causes.

Donna Smith said...

Woven together nicely. Trees are always fascinating to me. When they say "if walls could talk", I think "if trees could talk". I never like seeing the unnecessary loss of a tree. They do still have "much to say".

Author Amok said...

Thank you for the comments, everyone. I feel like this poem was drawn to me after reading that news story -- as if it jumped out of Sid's book. I'm intrigued by this skeleton. What other secrets might an old tree be hiding in its roots?

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Intriguing story! I hadn't head about that, but it would be so cool to learn his/her story. And the poem is perfect - talk about serendipity!

Tabatha said...

"like a gutting knife
& now the limbs lay splayed
& bleaching like some monstrous skeleton," -- very nice. Have you read Jama's poem today? It has an interesting undercurrent of knives and danger, but from a very different angle!

Gathering Booksw said...

What an interesting story about the uprooted tree and the skeleton. I think, its not stored in my mind for future reference. As to the poem you share, its beautiful. I love the sound of it. I had to read it aloud and let the sound of the words play around. And the images were so beautifully painted I could see the movement of everything. Definitely a delight to the senses.

Tara said...

The news story and poem are perfect bookends, Laura. I remember a set of trees coming down in our neighborhood, and being drawn to those gaping holes - so many stories buried in those tangled roots.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

A terrific post and poem, Laura. And, as I recall, not the first time pieces have fallen together in your lap. Pieces that will undoubtedly lead to something bigger... something not yet born. Your muse carries a powerful magnet.

Diane Mayr said...

There's something incredibly sad about seeing an old tree come down. One that may be older than the oldest human alive today. If it could talk, what would it have to say about the changes it has seen? Would it be a stoic or would it wail? A thought-provoking poem and post.

Tricia said...

What a lovely poem. Thank you for sharing it and for introducing me to a new-to-me poet.

I posted that story on Facebook and kept coming back to it all week. I can't imagine what it would have been like to find that skeleton embedded in the roots.

Margaret Simon said...

This post prompted me to go back and find a poem I wrote about a fallen tree in our neighborhood. What is it with trees and poems? Love Sid's poem and how the story of it becomes the poem. I like to write poems that read like prose. This is a good model. I look forward to your tree skeleton poem. I found my old oak poem from 2012.

Catherine said...

Laura, this is exactly the kind of story that I'm intrigued by, and I love the connection between the tree in Ireland and Sid's poem. I'm looking forward to hearing the voice you give to that "untold constellation."

Carol Varsalona said...

Laura, your intertwining of pieces really were strung together quite nicely. I am intrigued by falling trees and how they just age out or are tempted by the weather to come down. My friends had a neighbor's tree fall through their house and land in their kitchen during Superstorm Sandy. I witnessed the effect right after it happened. Our neighborhood looked like a fallen mess of nature but that is a whole other story. I am looking forward to reading what comes of the story you showcased.

Ruth said...

I love the question about what trees are hiding. Great post!