Elegy for Tree

November 2, 2021
A photograph of a tree on a savannah with a blue sky above
Photo by niko / Unsplash

Series editor’s note: The tree in Tamara J. Madison’s poem is one that holds a blemished beauty, both life-giving and life-taking. The speaker addresses the tree right away, opening an ancient wound that perhaps all black bodies will know deep in their bones; here is a tree, a living, pulsating thing, filled with beauty, and wonder, and such greenness, and yet what does it hold? Another black body, another black body. – Mahtem Shiferraw


Elegy for Tree

to behold the beauty blemished
to cringe the jeering crowd
to flinch the blood-letting
to shudder beneath the cameras’ incessant flashings, suffer
the bristling rope

                                                            Oh, Tree!
you too will be frozen
horror in the photograph
obscenity printed on postcards
abomination framed as trophy
your branches lulled by the swinging Body
the Body that once knelt beneath your shade to pray
the Body that leaned against you sharing a first kiss
the Body that ran, toddler feet chasing butterflies
the Body squealing with joy
now a dangling body
bait for a murder of crows

                                                            Oh, Tree,
how your leaves claw the vapid air
as you weep this vile morning

Editorial note: Black Voices is a special series guest-edited by Mahtem Shiferraw and sponsored by the WLT Puterbaugh Endowment, which makes possible the Puterbaugh Lit Fest. The series will run on a weekly basis through November 2021.

Tamara J. Madison is an MFA graduate of New England College with creative and critical work published in various anthologies, journals, and magazines including Poetry International, Tidal Basin Review, Web Del Sol Review of Books, and Tea Literary & Arts Magazine. She is a contributing editor to aaduna, an online journal of words and images, and an English and creative writing instructor at Valencia College. Her most recent poetry collection is Threed, This Road Not Damascus (Trio House Press). She is also the creator and host of BREAKDOWN: The Poet & The Poems, a poetry conversation series on YouTube.