Tree

My leaves are green, although my trunk has splintered,
And my old bark is blackened and decayed.
I live alone, surrounded by buildings.
I just stand here in the wind, and sway.

The sky is not as blue as I remember.
When snow comes, it never seems to last.
The winds are not as bitter in November,
The soil – not as sweet as in the past.

When I first sprouted here with my brothers,
My crown barely peaked above the grass.
Large mammoths herds were grazing the horizons.
We were afraid that they would trample us.

I have seen giant sloths and giant bears
As a small sapling reaching for the sun,
But they’ve been gone for thousands of years.
Sometimes I wonder – where have they gone?

Then humans came, with their stone-tipped arrows.
We laughed at them – the ugly, naked beasts.
I realize that we should’ve been scared,
But back then we weren’t scared in the least

For we were young, and racing for the clouds.
We’ve grown too big, we thought, for them to hurt.
There were so many of us, and we were so proud,
And we knew so little of the world.

Mankind brought death to us death by axe and fire,
And thus the slow holocaust began:
Each year, as I grew a little higher,
My brothers fell around me, one by one.

Yet still I grew – us trees are meant to grow.
Nobody asks us when, or where, or how.
I stored up black hatred in my soul
As I fed on the shit from their cows

Until I was the last one left, the highest
Point on the land, and now it was my turn
To make them pay. They burned us down with fire;
I, too, would use the fire and make them burn!

One summer night, as lightening was dancing
From cloud to cloud, and the grass was dry,
I reached into the heavens with my branches
And snatched the lightening out of the sky.

But it had turned on me and scorched my crown;
My very core splintered from the blow,
And as the burning bits of me rained down,
I wondered – how did I get so low?

I meant to kill! I wanted to destroy –
But I was just a tree, how could I win?
In agony, I cursed the very soil
From which I grew, as flames gnawed on my limbs.

I fell apart, defeated and decrepit,
Engulfed in unimaginable pain.
That’s when the humans hurried to my aid;
Those very humans came to fight the flames!

Oh, I was helpless, I was ripe for slaughter,
But they saved me. Compassionate and kind
They soothed my burning stumps with cooling water,
And so that day I made peace with mankind.

I gained a new insight from my ordeal,
An understanding hit me, as I fell:
I realized how small mankind must feel
When my own folly brought me to their level.

I saw that some of them weren’t like the others.
And who was I to choose which ones should live?
Besides, their death would not bring back my brothers,
I doubt it would even ease my grief.

The fire broke my trunk, but healed my spirit.
I wouldn’t die, I hung on by the roots.
The following spring first tender leaves appeared
As I reached for sky with brand new shoots.

The humans cheered at my resurrection;
They were amazed I managed to survive.
I will admit, I basked in their affection –
I was so grateful just to be alive!

A truce was reached: they took away the cows:
A little victory gained from my defeat.
They built a park around me, and now
They bring their offspring to play at my feet.

As their generations come and go,
I watch their city gradually expand.
If humans are like trees and need to grow –
They’ve earned the right to grow on my land.

Copyright 2014 @ Julie Deshtor

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About Julie Deshtor

Julie Deshtor grew up in the Soviet Union during the turbulent 90's, and moved to the United States shortly after the Soviet Empire collapsed in 1991. A bilingual author, Julie writes both fiction and poetry, as well as translating poetry and lyrics. She brings her rich cultural and life experienced to her fiction, exploring the psychological struggles of her characters with compassion and insight, as they navigate the murky waters of the modern society. Julie currently resides in Utah, USA. Her interests include art, world literature, zoology, anthropology and urban subculture
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