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Celebrating Tree in Souwesto

Mother trees surround us, the very
few left over from original forest we
long paved over, old rotten stumps
that settlers burnt to clear their land.

The Oak above Pond Mills hidden
on a hillside of younger upstarts.
The Beech behind Attawandaron
where October puffball might pop.

The Black Spruce and Tamarack
that whisk us into clearer northern
air as we walk through Sifton Bog
like winds that wind along each limb.

The Hickory I climbed as a girl
on Medway Farm, lying astride
one long branch intertwined by
all those saplings vying for light.

The three Birch in our front lawn,
planted when we moved here some
sixty years ago, growing old along-
side, dropping fireplace kindling.

Trees we have known are trees we
can meet by species. Once connected,
always familiar, old friends to greet
on any city street or in deep woods

if we can slow down long enough to
salute the Tree of Life in each. Light
candelabra of Catalpa, Horse Chestnut,
Pine, Balsam Fir, Juniper or Cedar cone.

Sing a litany of names that belong here.
Alder, Balm of Gilead, Willow galore.
Glorious Maple, Butternut, sad slips of
Elm, even intrusive Buckthorn now.

Celebrate those graceful interlopers,
the Carolinians (Redbud, Tulip Tree,
magnificent Magnolia) sheltering here
at comfort’s edge in Snowbelt country.

Here’s to lacy Walnut, Honey Locust,
whose canopies carry us off to African
plains: Acacia giraffes might browse
or Le Douanier paint above his lion.

Sycamore is our memory tree, shedding
its bark like arbutus, its winter silhouette
a ghostly skeleton, reminiscent of that
other London’s Plane-shaded streets.

Trees know their season, their reason for
being. How each tree reaches out to be-
come World Tree. We have so much to
learn from not living on but with our place.

We who live in this Forest City must ensure
a name never replaces the reality of canopy.
Long may our trees flourish for we can only
prosper with our elder brothers, our mothers.

Penn Kemp
Celebrate the Trees, Museum London, September 25, 2009