“The Monument Tree” by J.R. Poulter

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                                                   Copyright 1992

                                                   J R Poulter


I don’t remember the first

           whispers of life

                     as I lay

          warm in the earth.

  I don’t recall

      the gentle uncurling.

The first reality

          for me was light

Breaking over me as I broke free

                     of the earth that covered.

The night

     was cool

     and the dew

     washed me of the stains of birth

     that clung to me.

My roots pushed deeper,


          feeling my way down

          even as I reached out

          and up.

There were others like me

shaded by greater trees.



And time

Took most of them.

Earthdark people came,

Leaning their shelters

          against my slenderness.

They came and went

And came again,


Again –

Never  leaving any trace –

Gliding across the landscape

Brief as windblown showdows

               across a face.

A young man


     a straight, strong limb –

I bled.

     But there was healing.

The young man made a thing of blood

And killed

     one of his kind.

The young man fled.

The dead man lay between my roots.

I held him till he blended

               into me.

Other men came.

The shadow people passed

               like the night wind’s breath on grass

               into the distant dark.

They came back but sometimes

                     in silence,

And only to steal their own.

The others came and came, like the fire in the sky

And with a sound like thunder.


There was a change,

But not of seasons

          or the cycles of life.

My leaves no longer brushed against my kind.

The murmlings of the stream

               and all its creatures – gone.

The land was naked in the sun.

Strange animals moved slow

               and heavy




               over it.

I was strong now,

          and tall.

But generations of my seed

               were trodden down,

               cut down,

Or left

     like skeletons

     to cry against a harsh horizon.

I longed for the shy, quiet creatures,

                     that had clung to me,

                     or grazed and slumbered in my shade.

They came not often now

               and flitted in fear

               like haunted things.


     the shadow people

               came crying –

               running and huddling by me.

The others followed fast

               four feet instead of two,




sudden fire!

The shadow people fell.

Their blood,

     their being

     passed slowly

     back into the earth,

     into me.

The others built fences

          to keep out

          to keep in.

They lived by me.

And died.

Thin babies,

Frightened women,

And men,

     who looked across fences

                     into wilderness

     with eyes their wives didn’t see,

     and took what their wives didn’t know.

So came another people

               who fences could not hold

               and the wilderness did not own.

The fences grew

          like webs,




I was become gnarled

          and towering

               with the wind in my arms.

The possums

     who had never really


     came back to nest

               in my hollows –

     and the birds.

One evening

     roving lights

               searched over the hills.

The possum mother foraged,

               but did not return.

I felt the little ones’ cries,

                     then the stillness

                     in the heart of me.

The others hunched their buildings


                     shutting out

                     and shutting in. 


     they came and sang,

Strained and straight

          as picket fences.

They nailed a plaque to me

               and nodded.

A child of their children, grown tall

                     took the plaque for his bower.

It left a symetrical scar

               on the wilderness of me.

The buildings vied

          to touch the clouds

          and shadowed me.

A careful garden at my feed

               flourished like a desert flower

               and went –

               fraggled beneath

                          rough feet.

Only the vagabond birds

          found refugee with me

          and the strange,

               stray animals

               that only cities breed.

Another young man came

          out of the buildings

With shadow

     across his face.

His eyes looked into me

Till the sun set behind me and

Burned me into his soul.

That night

     earth, fire and water


White fire

     split earth and heaven!

The tree was broken

          to its heart –

An obstruction for the others

               that must go.

The young man came and took the tree –

                          the tree that was beautiful.

Out of the tree

          the young man, who belonged to no one,

                               shaped and formed

                                         his cry.

From out of twisted limbs and trunk,

A man of earth and fire

               came crying!

From the roots

          of his entrapment

He cried.

He cried out!

He cried out,

          from the darkness that held him,

          into the light!

And the tree was beautiful.

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