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a tree telling of Orpheus

 

he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
came into my roots out of the earth, into my bark
out of the air, into the pores of my greenest shoots
gently as dew and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
He told me of journeys, of where sun and moon go while we stand in dark, of an earth-journey he dreamed he would take some day deeper than roots …
He told of the dreams of man, wars, passions, griefs,
and I, a tree, understood words – ah, it seemed
my thick bark would split like a sapling’s that grew too fast in the spring when a late frost wounds it.

Fire he sang, that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames.
New buds broke forth from me though it was full summer.
As though his lyre (now I knew its name) were both frost and fire, its chords flamed up to the crown of me.
I was seed again. I was fern in the swamp. I was coal.

 

Denise Levertov

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