Archives for posts with tag: trees

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Elegy for My Trees
by Feroza Jussawalla

The weather is turning;
not, as it usually does,
when liquid gold
comes and goes,
dripping from amber branches
that shed their emerald ear drops.

This year there is no crunch
to the gold dried to airy thinness.
It is soggy damp. Slippery and sliding,
causing falls.

The skies have been weeping,
Filling the ever-overflowing rain barrels.

The continuous damp chill,
has wilted my Afghan pines
traumatized by the drought
in and around me, unready for this
bounty of water.

Many years of dry drought
have not prepared, desert sand or bark,
to absorb
what should be a gift of rain.

Instead, damp bark leeches water
releasing pine beetles, for
busy woodpecker heads to
peck, peck, peck,
tap, tap, tap.

It is a wonder their little heads don’t
fall off,
similarly making them fodder
for the lone hawk that sits
on his dying throne
a throne that I must soon have felled
before it tumbles and crumbles.

No, this water has not been a blessing,
as it breaks the banks of rivers
used to dry edges:
“This is how we were meant to be,” they say,
“to be streams in a desert,
For, when we are full and flush,
greedy gold diggers, mistaken mine cleaners,
break veins, that loose
poison into our life blood.”

Petrichor turns to putrifaction,
as drowning roots, lose loose soil
threatening to topple
stately majestics that must be felled
before canyon winds blow them over.

No, we have abused mother earth too long,
and now she lets loose wind and weather,
tides that bring in the amakua, as sharks
that bite children by the seaside.
This niño does not bring a blessing,

Santo Niño, can you save us with your rebirth?

PHOTO: New Mexico storm (Sept. 30, 2017). Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is an elegy for MY eight big Afghan pines that had to be felled, a couple years ago, in 2015, when our desert environment received and excess of rain. In 2015, the gold King mine waste water spilled into our rivers, in the one year that we had an excess of rain and the rivers were full. Thus, the water could not be used.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Feroza Jussawalla, is Professor Emerita, of English, at the University of New Mexico, Albuqueruque. She has taught for forty plus years and published several works of criticism on Postcolonial Literatures. Her collection of poetry, Chiffon Saris, was published by Toronto South Asian Review Press and The Writer’s Workshop, Kolkotta (2002).

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After the burning
the forest returns
by Kelley White

—for Dr. Al Shigo, May 8, 1930-October 6, 2006

“Trees as a group are intelligent. Intelligence
means the ability to connect information
in ways that assure survival.”

past seared hemlock, split beach, scarred maple,
I am waiting by the damp places for the thick amazement
of berries, brave through the squalling mosquito clouds,
the tearing tartness of red, raspberry, thick confusion, of black,
berry, hard ticking of grasshopper and bee as the sun climbs
noon through new green aspen saplings, moose
maple, stinkwood, black birch cotyledons, choke
cherry, ash, —pushing two-leaved through low growth—
creepers, princess pine, ground pine, mosses, whip fork
and broom, powder gun, hairy cap, succulent snow-
berry, wintergreen, fierce climbing snapdragon,
thrust through fecund droppings, bear, moose, deer
sign, rabbit scat, new green touch-me-not, honeysuckle,
wild grape, strangling bittersweet, and your own, your fungi,
destroying angel, puff ball, witch’s butter, morel,
staghorn, in scrub brush, sumac, elderberry, in liminal
cattail, pussy willow, prickly wild rose; white light
on the ledges, the granite mountain, past tree line,
hot crow call on sun-burned shoulder, cracked paper
birch, wind-burned pine in the place of eagles,
pail thump of rock blueberries in lichen dry desert
(lush moss-worlds after rain,) checkerberries, trillium, Indian
pipe, ladyslipper, one shaft of sunlight, and dark
owl-pellet damp, cool waterfall thrush; trees may not heal,
but the forest does, seeks fingerling strawberries
in low burning grass, sand tunneling bee hiss, skitter
ant, quick knee prickle through juniper sharp branches—
read the runes, beetle-track beneath bark, dragonflies
in coupled flight, ballooning spiders, sugar maples scarred
by drunk sapsuckers, and ashes, noon hot bird sky, you, rising
ash, smoke, pollen, snake in hawkgrasp, seed, falling—my
startled hand seizing all, red tipped and eager, pushing
into the heart of brambles, transfixed by thorns—
almost worth the fire, the blackened stumps

PAINTING: Fires in the Forest by Laszlo Mednyanszky (1910).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Renowned plant pathologist Alex Shigo lived across the street from me as I was growing up in a small New Hampshire town during the 1960s. I remember many hikes with Dr. Shigo and my best friend, his daughter Judy, and learned much about insect life and fungi and something about the many layers of life in a forest. (To quote his story in Wikipedia, he was “a biologist, plant pathologist with the United States Forest Service whose studies of tree decay resulted in many improvements to standard arboricultural practices.”) Judy now oversees his archives and handles requests for his publications, including Modern Arboriculture—Touch Trees. I was very excited to hear him quoted a few years ago in a workshop I attended in Philadelphia about tending “urban trees.” His work, and my remembrance of his teaching, give me some hope for our multi-species planet, even for one of his special areas of expertise, the lowly yet vital fungi. (Let me mention here a book he guided me to: Lucy Kavaler’s 1965 Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles, as fascinating now as when I read it in fourth grade.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent collection is A Field Guide to Northern Tattoos (Main Street Rag Press.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant and is currently Poet in Residence at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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Ode to a Redbud
by Margaret Dornaus

it is a serious thing // just to be alive /
on this fresh morning / in this broken world.
            —Mary Oliver, “Invitation”

Redbud, such a simple name for such
a complicated tree. You, with blooms so red
they’re purple, fostering a crooked understory
at the edge of my forest garden. You,
doing your best all your brief life to disguise
the gnarled knot of your trunk, your brittle,
hard-knock scars with leaves that pass for teardrops
or hearts—depending on perspective, depending
on the season. You, growing without fanfare before
bursting in on early spring, an awkward adolescent, once
reviled; now kowtowed to by the sudden delicate
droop of a dogwood’s subservient white petals.
O, tree of my youth, have you come to tempt me
into yesterday’s fairytale of possibilities?
To sweep me off unsteady feet, take me for a ramble
in your branching arms, hold me close, heartwood
to heartwood, showering me with a hundred fascicles
of passion until I cry out, turn toward your light and beg
for mercy and the fire to believe in happily-ever-after
beginnings, if not endings today? This day, your day,
my day. This day of sweet imperfect beauty
in this broken world.

First appeared in the June 2021 issue of MockingHeart Review

PHOTO: Redbud tree in spring by pixabay.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem during the height of the pandemic from the sanctuary of the Ozark forest that surrounds my woodland home. Even before the daily onslaught of Covid-19, the vast collection of trees—oak, ash, pine, sweetgum, hickory—outside my front door provided me with a healing presence. But it took the heartbreaking beauty of a flowering redbud I planted years before the pandemic for me to realize the role each and every tree has to play as we struggle to heal our broken world.

PHOTO: Redbud tree, photo by the author (Spring 2021).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Dornaus holds an MFA in the translation of poetry from the University of Arkansas. Her first book of poetry, Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prosereceived a 2017 Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America. In 2020, she had the privilege of publishing a pandemic-themed anthology—behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19—through her small press, Singing Moon. Other recent work appears in Global Pandemic, MacQueen’s QuiinterlyNaugatuck Review, Silver Birch Press’ I AM STILL WAITING seriesThe Ekphrastic Review, and The Lindenwood Review. 

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Pacific Yew
by James Ross Kelly

I was once paid
to survey Yew trees
in Old Growth forests
in Oregon near Crater Lake, as
mammoth Douglas fir & White fir
covered the landscape, rolling sides
of Mountains, the Yew were generally
in wet areas, crevices of creeks,
they grew as attendant soldiers to the large conifers
the Yew only fifty to sixty feet the oldest of them
lining the feeder streams that stretched downward
to Creeks that all ran to the Rogue River
the surrounding clearcuts were littered with their
brothers & sisters as they are sexed male & female
loggers put them into large piles
to be burned as unmerchantable

In Canada they made them into beautiful
hardwood flooring, after closing a bar in
British Columbia I was drinking beer
at a timber faller’s home & complimented
him on his floor as it was gorgeous red hues
& blond running throughout the lengths of the boards,
& I asked him what kind of wood
it was, as I had installed wood floors
for about as brief a time as I had logged

“THAT,” he said, with a flourish
as he waved his Molson,
“Is Canadian Yew wood!”
& he said it as if it pronounced from the Queen herself

The females have tiny red berries
but were no different in appearance
than the males, but that they were
dioeciously conifers with separate sexes
was something that seemed an oddity,
yews were generally few & far
between but in the right conditions
they would form stands that followed
the creeks downhill & appeared
as un-uniformed limby
gnarly red barked ever green twisted
with holes & grown
over defects that were as old as
the tall Douglas fir
their large European counterparts were used as chapels
by early Christians
who took them from
Pagan worshipers that found their otherworldly
appearance in deep forest as thin places
to be contingent with other worlds
& I who had formerly spent
my short forestry career in clearcuts
where all this had been raped,
well, the three weeks I spent with
Yews, kind of sealed this notion
They were otherworldly

That, yes, this separate place
was an amalgam
of earth, with a presence
all its own, we were surveying Yew
because its bark had been found
to be a cure for breast & ovarian cancer,
the worry at the time was
that we had cut too much of it
& the need for it for medicine would
be its demise in a few short years
notwithstanding the fact we had burned up
More than was left, calling it “trash wood”
perhaps every incurable disease has
its counterpart, in this manner
the European Yew were almost wiped out because
of its prize as a commodity for long bows,
As a millennium of war raged on that continent.

This is really more understandable
rather than the overuse because it was
“just in the way,” of D8 Cats
& the ever-present need to tidy up
& burn the leftovers so we could entertain
the notion of growing back trees like corn that
had in a rather elegant fashion been growing to cure
the beloveds—the grandmothers,
the mothers, the young women whose
lives were to come into an age of
life out of balance

Education formed for reductionist drones
so that in corporate discounting of the lovely,
& the obscure
into spreadsheets & bottom lines
while the checkerboard square clearcuts
of Pacific Northwest took away
the great bands of yew & the spotted
owl—who were never seen
as created harbingers of loveliness,
& health & the sure goodness of
hidden away answers
to all our problems.

PHOTO: Old-growth forest near Crater Lake, Oregon. Photo by Ana Shuda on Unsplash.

EDITOR’S NOTES: Dioecious trees have male or female parts—a male tree has male flowers that produce pollen; a female tree has female flowers that produce fruit. Paclitaxel, derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), is used in the treatment of breast, lung, and ovarian cancer, as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There is a lot of work in Natural Resources that is about healing the Earth—understanding how wrong we have been is part of healing. This poem is from my book, Black Ice & Fire  (UnCollected Press, 2021).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California next to the Sacramento River. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs—the in-between, jobs you get from being an English major—most of them in Natural Resources of some kind. He started writing poetry and short stories in college on the GI Bill, and after college continued to write and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. Kelly worked as an environmental writer for the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where he retired in 2012. Born in Kansas, Kelly was a long-time resident of Southern Oregon, where he grew up. His work has been featured in Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles, California), Cargo Literary, (Prince Edward Island, Canada), Fiction Attic, Rock and Sling (Spokane, Washington), Edify (Helena, Alabama), Flash Fiction (San Francisco), Rue Scribe  (New Mexico), True Chili (New Mexico), The RawArt Review (Ellicott City, Maryland), The Purpled Nail (New Mexico), The Galway Review (Ireland), Willows Wept Review (Florida), and Blood and Bourbon (Nova Scotia, Canada). HIs first book of fiction, And the Fires We Talked About, a collection of short stories, was published by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review in 2020. His first book of poetry, Black Ice & Fire, was published in February 2021 by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review.

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Witness
by James Penha

I used to untangle the city vines strangling my mind
on a ship across the Strait to the jungles of Sumatra
where families of howling gibbons leaped from trees
to trees startling hornbills picking plump figs as I hoped
for the nest of orangutans, the trumpet of an elephant,
the roar of a tiger. Hard to hear now; hard to see now
that the ancient trees have burned to make room
for profitable plantations of oil palms that suck rivers,
lakes and my soul to dust for us to graze grocery aisles.

PHOTO: Orangutan in the Sumatran rainforest (March 27, 2016). Photo by Visions of Domino.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Sumatra is one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia. Borneo and Sumatra are the only places on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants live together. In the last 35 years, Sumatra  has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest. Critically endangered species include the Sumatran ground cuckoo, the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Sumatran orangutan. Deforestation on the island has also resulted in serious seasonal smoke haze over neighboring countries, such as the 2013 Southeast Asian haze which caused considerable tensions between Indonesia and affected countries Malaysia and Singapore.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What can we do to heal the jungles? Look for the RSPO label to ensure we purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label provides confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Find him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

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Autumn Notes
by Joan McNerney

1.
Four sparkling maples
sashay in autumn winds.
dressed in yellow lace.

Half moon hiding in old
oak tree on top of hillside.

Children kicking up leaves
shouting while jumping
over mounds of foliage.

2.
Bright leaves gleaming
in sunshine tumbling
through an Alice blue sky.

Carpets of red yellow brown
foliage unfurls before us.

Walking through trails of trees
becoming spellbound by
leafy giants towering over us.

3.
Morning light reveals
silhouettes of branches
against a dove grey sky.

Grab your coat and scarf.
Where are your gloves and hat?

Hurry, pick gardens of bright
vegetables. Time to cook
big pots of soup, yeasty breads.

4.
Dancing in joyous circles
ragtag russet leaves glow
under the noon day sun.

See them spin rustle-bustle
within a ring of singsong.

Listen to their shuffle
saying they will return soon
dressed in bright green.

PHOTO: Maple leaves and trees by Adaenn (2014).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I cannot imagine a mall, a jewel, or an honor as great as seeing the beauty around us. Stop this endless wanting and striving … take what you need and just be.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, including Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Journals, and numerous Poets’ Espresso Reviews have accepted her work. The recipient of four Best of the Net nominations, her latest titles are The Muse in Miniature and Love Poems for Michael  available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net.

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Falling Off a Log
by Lynne Kemen

Diesel truck
struggling up the hill.
Chainsaws clammer.
Horrible ripping sounds.

My living neighbor
luckily still lives
mostly on Long Island.
He’s 210 miles,
or three and a half hours,
away.
Not hearing. Not seeing.
Not horrified for what he’s done.

He sold the land’s soul in
logging rights.
An ass, a pretty pass.
Wish he’d sold to me,

Poor, poor Johnny Appleseed,
Wish he’d sold to me.
Instead, he spiritually seceded.,
leasing off what the future needed.

Stingy, greedy
Ebenezer Scrooge from bone
to the bark. Bah humbug
to the habitat here.

Melvillian long months,
the rolling tide of
splintering wood.
Shipwrecked by sound.
The shrieking of trees.
Branches broken.
Roots wrenched.
Trees toppled.

As a getaway,
I gaze at a goldfinch.
He quietly bubbles
po-ta-to-chip
po-ta-to-chip
in a clean cadence.

The woods will revive,
regrow on its own.
Twigs sprout and tweak.
Not in my lifetime.
The earth grows to glory,
but not in my lifetime.

PHOTO: Male goldfinch (spring plumage) on forsythia bush. Photo by Jill Wellington.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem about the land across the road from my home in the Great Western Catskills in Upstate New York. The logging went on for nearly two months and all the wildlife was terribly disrupted.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handfulwas published in 2020. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Fresh Words Magazine, Blue Mountain Review, and the anthology What We See on Our Journeys. A Runner-Up for The Ekphrastic Journal’s competition of Women Artists, she is an Editor for The Blue Mountain Review and The Southern Collective, both in Atlanta, Georgia. She is on the Board of Bright Hill Press in Treadwell, New York.

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Lopsided
by Thomas Zampino

I noticed only yesterday but the signs seem to have existed forever.

The trees in my backyard, the ones that have always been so elegant, so strong, so reliable, and just this side of ancient, have grown grossly lopsided.

Perhaps it’s the ground beneath them. Unanticipated upheavals are now feeding at their roots. Or maybe it’s the years of neglect, years when I failed to see their fragility.

Even their limbs are pointing back towards the earth, as if reaching down for the comfort of days long gone.

Will their own weight finally bring them down?

Not if I can nurture them in time. Not if I can reclaim those anchoring roots.

Not if I finally understand.

Lessons abound.

Previously published at gracepending.wordpress.com

PAINTING: Avond (Evening): The Red Tree by Piet Mondrian (1910).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Healing, whether touching upon an individual, a society, or the world at large, does not require massive or sudden change. Subtle yet definable movement—patiently, mindfully, and consistently undertaken—will yield enormous growth. Because we are so radically but differently empowered, each of us is capable of offering up just one modest step towards healing that, together, can change everything. We need only notice and begin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Zampino, a New York City attorney, writes poetry at gracepending.wordpress.com. His work has appeared in, among other places, The University of Chicago’s Memoryhouse Magazine, Silver Birch Press, Bard’s Annual 2019, Bard’s Annual 2020, Trees in a Garden of Ashes, Otherwise Engaged, Chaos, A Poetry Vortex, and Nassau County Voices in Verse. A video enactment of his poem Precise Moment was produced by Brazilian director and actor Gui Agustini. His first book of poetry, Precise Moment, was published in August 2021.

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Letting Go
by Anne Walsh Donnelly

It is cold and dry in Raheens Woods,
trees stretch their half-clad limbs
towards a patchy blue sky.
I look up and try to clear my mind
of the briars that steal September’s light.
I pluck a holly leaf from its bush,
run my finger along the smooth surface
until I reach the tip and blood drips.

Further into the woods, blankets of dense moss
hang from dank black branches.
I pick a sycamore leaf, the colour of an aubergine
from the stony path, put it in my pocket,
as I would a relic, comfort between my finger
and thumb, until ground into purple dust.

A breeze blows a mustard-coloured beech leaf
into my face, tears follow it to the earth.
I close my eyes to the heaving,
my breath a wave of silent wails.
I wrap my arms around the trunk of an oak,
press my heart against the dark bark,
and ask it to help me let go of the withering
leaves littering the floor of my Autumn heart.

PAINTING: Yellow Leaves by Georgia O’Keeffe (1928). (Copyright, Brooklyn Museum, 2006)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I go to the woods for comfort and guidance and I trust the healing power of nature. I watched Autumn leaves fall from the trees and realised that trees willingly let go of that which is withering to make way for new growth. I wrapped my arms around an oak asking it to take from me what I don’t need any more and give me what I do need. I went home to write this poem and realised how nature and humanity are interconnected and how we both have the potential to heal or destroy each other.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. She was recently appointed as Poet Laureate for the town of Belmullet in County Mayo. Her full-length poetry collection, Odd as F*ck, was published in May 2021 by Fly on the Wall Poetry Press, which also published her poetry chapbook, The Woman With An Owl Tattoo. To find out more, visit annewdonnelly.com.

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A Chat with Mahogany
by Bonface Isaboke Nyamweya

This buzz and hum
of voices
And the growl
of traffic
Blend into a solid mutter of sound
That taps my mind only partly
My mind is lost
In the pustule of rage
Ripening deep down in me
From yesterday’s chat I had with my friend:
The mahogany to the right of my land
Fenced with rock plants, flowers, cacti, and ornamental trees
I had gone there for circumspection
“You established me here forty years ago.”
He bubbled flapping the leaves
“True.”
“But I’m alone. My children, you’ve sure murdered for cents…”
“How do you know that?”
“I have been watching you for long
The power-saw sliced them for charcoal
And some succumbed to your axe for firewood
And today you’ve come, to see how much I’ve fattened for splitting
You have demolished our generation
And by so doing, you’ve demolished your generation.”
A gentle breeze whistled and died
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We the trees are your ecological neighbours.
When you efface us that way, who can purify the air you inhale?”
“We shall create artificial trees.”
“What will be the cost of doing that?”
“Don’t mind.”
“But we the trees feed you too. Will the artificial trees bear fruits?
Will they give you herbs?
Will they host the birds?”
I had no word to say
Tears tore themselves down my cheeks
I apologized to my friend Mahogany
I have started a mission
Of a seedbed of trees
With a spade and hoe at hand
Join me we plant the trees
For my efforts of care, yet more your efforts of care
Shall keep our vegetation thriving
And soothe our wounded nature.

PHOTO: Mahogany Tree by Rafał Próchniak.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was writing this poem, I remembered how we planted trees in Jinja at the Philosophical Centre of Jinja while pursuing my BA in Philosophy, Environmental Ethics unit. Seeing trees as our ecological neighbours is something vital in order to respect vegetation as part of our ecosystem, hence not as simply objects for our gratification. This is crucial in the healing process of our mother earth. This is the gist of my poem “A Chat with Mahogany.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1997, Bonface Isaboke Nyamweya is a Kenyan poet, novelist, and young Pan Africanist. His short story “Whose Title Died” was published by the Pan African Writers Association in their anthology, Voices that Sing Behind the Veil (2021). Peeling the Cobwebs (2020) is his first novel and it treats the theme of tribalism in an imaginary African country called Ricafa. Her Question Pills (2020) treats feminism and African womanism. He is currently winding up his Masters in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Find him on Facebook and on Amazon