I Vowed that I Would Be a Tree

I vowed that I would be a tree.
      I went up to an oak and said,
“What shall I do that I might be
A beech, an oak, or any tree,
      With branches leafing from my head?”

There was a sound of sap that ran,
      There was a wind of leaves that spoke.
“So you would cease to be a man,
And be a green tree, if you can,
      A pine, a beech, an oak?”

I answered, “I am tired of men,
      As tired as they of me.
I fain would not return again
To the perplexity of men,
      But straightway be a tree.”

There was a sound of winds that went
      To summon every oldest tree,
To hold their austere Parliament
About the thing had craved to be
      Elect of their calm company.

There was a sound of bursting tide,
      There was a wash of clanging foam,
A crumbling shore, a bursting tide.
There came a thunder that outcried,
      “Go, wretched mortal, get thee home!

“Who art thou that would be a tree,
      Least of the weeds that shoot and pass?
Bide till a Wisdom come, and see
Before a mortal be a tree,
      He first must be a blade of grass!”

—Louis Golding (1895–1958), Sorrow of War, 1919

Desiccated

I write of only 3%
of the landscape
around me —
the green trees
colorful flowers
amazingly adaptive
dryland wildlife
and blind myself
to the rest of it —

but it’s time
to take a good look
and acknowledge
my selective seeing —
the 97% is dull
barren, stark, harsh, hot

out my bedroom window
there is a plain brown
block walled fence, my
neighbor’s white-metal
shed roof, off of which
glares the sun so brightly
it’s blinding, not a speck
of green in sight, except
one small weed emerging
from dusty gray rocks —

yes, there is a lizard
on the wall, doing push-ups
in the morning sun
and I watch him
with fascination
awed with nature
I forget the surrounding
urban desert ugliness —

until suddenly I wonder
where will he get
his next water?
surely from someone’s
yard watering system
but where do we  get
that precious water
for our thirsty homes?
and how much longer
will we be fortunate
enough to have it?

our city and county
allow so much over-
development, it feels
as if they are slowly
killing us, overcrowding
us, not caring about
our quality of life
nor the lizard’s —

but maybe, just maybe
we Phoenicians are
simply outright foolish
for trying to live here
in our air-conditioned
fortresses while the
city dries up around us

—Terri Guillemets

Fight for our lives

like wild animals, I am happy hiding
the artificial frightens my being —
but it is time to fight for the earth

—Terri Guillemets

scrambled blackout poetry created from Rafe Martin, Birdwing, 2005, pages 150–151