The Grief of Trees
Joined at the root, two tall pines
form a “V” that reaches toward the sky.
Their marriage, an inosculation,
is forever. Each is allowed to grow,
yet they never leave each other,
for their foundation is strong.
They once had a child—
a gnarly vine with bark
that stayed close to the parents,
while—like all children—
it explored the environment,
swaying in the breeze.
But breezes became strong winds,
and—over time—the trees lost
their offspring. The mighty pines
continued to sway and grow,
though who can discern
when a tree is grieving?
Not far from where the bereft gemels
stand, I, too, had a partner,
and hoped to grow while rooted
at our base. But the wild wind
of betrayal weakened our structure,
and an ice storm blew through
and detached us. No child was lost
in our storm, for there was never a child
to lose—an unseeded forest is also a loss.
Who can discern when a tree is grieving?
I grieve for them, and I observe them,
as they continue to thrive, joined securely
at their base, able to withstand the winds
that tear down the framework of those
whose roots do not reach deep into the earth.
We have seen it before:
the downed trees, the piles of limbs,
shingles flung to the street,
dozens of overflowing trash cans
reeking of rotted vegetables.
We know the drill—
the power will come back on
some day. There will be cable TV
and Internet some day,
and when we least expect it,
our phones will work again.
We are tough, we are resilient,
but we are powerless to escape
the sounds—the roar of generators,
the constant buzz of saws—the sounds
of Katrina. They blow through
the deepest recesses of our psyches,
they flow like restless bayous
through our waking dreams.
We knew then that we would never
be the same. Our hair stopped growing,
or it fell out, or turned suddenly gray.
The displaced, with their glazed-over eyes,
were easy to recognize. The rest of us
shuddered every time we saw the images.
Our bodies tightened like vises
every time the talking heads told a story
that had nothing to do with what happened.
We hear the droning symphony of saws
and motors—the sounds that remind us
that our DNA has been altered,
and that future generations will bear these genes.
The never-ending soundtrack of Katrina
is background music for the movie
that will never stop running—people
crammed onto the floor of the Superdome,
beloved pets tossed into the street to drown,
the sound of bullets on the Danziger Bridge,
deputies entering houses and shooting dogs,
the caskets of long-dead relatives
floating down the street, the deadly effects
of black mold and lead poisoning,
the remains of looted stores,
the search for missing corpses,
the leader eating cake in the desert.
Suddenly, there are birds
and dragonflies again,
and one morning, the sun shines.
At some point, generators will shut down,
and the saws will be put away.
But their sounds remain,
vibrating through our cells,
a deadly signature unique to us—
the eternal hum of trauma.
Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books), and two forthcoming chapbooks, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died, and The Last Time I Saw You. She also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Diane lives in Covington, Louisiana, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.