The Tree

January 18, 2022
A photograph of a recently clear-cut forest with a solitary tree left standing toward the left edge of the frame
Photo by Adam Cohn / Flickr

It did not weep
did not plead for mercy
nor complain.
It fell silently,
the tree.

~~~

My hands,
yellow as its flesh
dripping white blood,
shuddering with
the deafening sound
of the chainsaw.
I’m the tree
and the one
who kills it.

~~~

Its blood was white.
We took away its rouge
and the greenery of its leaves.

~~~

Before the adieu,
it left me its shade,
leaves and straws for
the birds’ nests
and the last seed,
in the dried palms
of the earth’s hands.

In the seed
the mysteries of
life and death.
The day they had come
to mark red on its forehead,
it knew they would be back
soon, to behead it.

~~~

When a tree is decapitated
before the eyes of other trees
how do they feel?

When I asked this question to the trees,
in response, they stood silent
with their heads down.

~~~

They came,
took down the tree,
the sun moved to the west
and everyone left.
Only the earth remained
and me, motionless
where the tree stood once,
filled with joy and gratitude.

~~~

Was it just a coincidence
that the tree died before my eyes?
Or had it been waiting for me
as one awaits the loved ones
in final days?
Before breathing its last,
it gave me an inheritance of an epic.

~~~

Have you ever seen
the execution of a tree?
It is said that the tree
weeps all night
before the day it dies.
It knows the meaning of
the red dot on its chest.

~~~

The grass wasn’t here.
It was seeded.
Once a tree lived on this ground.
The grass is a green stole
on its tomb.

~~~

The day it’s born brings joy.
When it grows—gives flowers, fruits, and shade.
And someday, its life.
My desk is the bare chest of a fallen tree.
Laying my head on it, I can hear its heartbeats.
And leaning on the shoulders of
every window and door of my home,
I can listen to all the forests on earth
weeping together.

 

Author’s note: According to the journal Nature, about 15 billion trees are cut every year throughout the world. Inspired by a true event, The Tree is an experimental short film written and directed by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis. The film is based on a work of poetry that tells the stories of millions of trees and endangered forests through the story of one tree, which inspired the film. The movie meditates on the life and purpose of a tree and draws attention toward environmental concerns such as deforestation, climate change, and its effects on wildlife and our ecosystem.

Kalpna Singh-Chitnis is an Indian-American poet, writer, filmmaker, and author of four poetry collections. Her poetry, essays, and translations have appeared in notable journals worldwide, and her works have been translated into many languages. Poems from her award-winning book Bare Soul and a poetry film, River of Songs, included in the Nova Collection and the Polaris Collection of the Lunar Codex time capsules, are set to go to the moon with NASA’s Nova-C lander missions to Oceanus Procellarum in 2022 and NASA’s Viper rover mission to the lunar south pole in 2023. Her forthcoming poetry collection, Trespassing My Ancestral Lands, is in the making.

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