Naked shivering, powder snow
in Winter sleeping on my branches
Blooming in pastel colours
in Spring this season, my petals are robbed
Clothed sweating in saps, children climb
in Summer on me, bugs crawl up my skin
Burning leaves I’ve worn since Easter
in Fall abandon me, they like the ground better
In death, this became my life: an unbroken cycle of beginnings and ends, marked by hot summers and bitter winters. And I will die again.
I’m watered, sometimes by rain and sometimes
by my great granddaughter.
In the California drought, clouds barely open up
they’re protective of water. Lily has to make
long walks from the front door
to her forest of ancestors to nurture us.
Planted in the dirt, I sprout.
I used to have milky skin
all the men wanted to touch.
Now, my skin sheds, rises and grows
into rough wild bark that will scratch your back
if you lean against me.
In Spring, my hair becomes flowers
blooming in lavender and rouge. Little girls pluck
the petals from me and crown themselves.
In Summer, my hair grows longer, stronger
into waxy green leaves.
In Fall, I lose it all. I become
nature’s cancer patient, bald by Winter,
every year fearing I’ll be chopped down:
cut for firewood
carved into ice lolly sticks
be printed with bad news
burned alive, crumbling into powder grey ash
scooped up, spread, separated, sprinkled
One day, I’ll be nothing. I’ll die again. Now, I stand in my roots, shivering, thinking of the best moments: when the schoolgirl skipped her classes to read romance novels in my groove; when my acorns fed the squirrels through the winter; when M+J carved their initials, hands shaking, into my flesh, before sharing their first kiss.
You are old, decaying cell by cell as everyone dreams
Your children hold your hands with true love
You lose the feeling in your fingers clinging on to any last piece
You take one final breath, s l o w until it’s gone
The minute you die, 21 grams leave your body: your soul parts ways with the home it has lived in soundly for the last 9 decades. Goodbye sweet friend, enjoy the cold ground.
A foggy sphere of energy
flexible and shimmering, rises from the body.
The soul is young, only a few centuries.
It is still strong enough to stay together,
Between hospital walls, down dark corridors
people can mistake it for dust
or a faint reflection from a flickering light
or their own breath in the December cold.
It escapes the ward,
flies through the atmosphere of earth
out of control, travelling by the wind
living in a void
shades of inky midnight blacks.
It is blind, only subject
to the cold clap of air, the warm wrap of space.
It arrives at The Edge
misty with other souls
slipping and sliding past each other
in a fury of fog, fighting for the next round of bodies.
The soul is wrapped in a calloused hand.
It is thrown
spinning off into the nix
sucked into tornado currents
falling into the soul shaped place
inside a body
it’s comfortable, snug, tight
its spheroid shape fits into the hole.
It’s sent through the passage of birth
hearts throb, blood warms it, a push releases you.
An electric spark of light blurs your vision.
You search for your voice to scream,
feel for breasts to feed on, a hand to hold you.
You feel concrete under your toes,
humidity on your shoulders
but those aren’t toes
and those aren’t shoulders.
You look behind you at your family,
you wonder what you did wrong?
This next life is spent on six legs as you dodge being stepped on, children trying to eat you, carrying dropped crumbs back into your sandy home, where no words are used to communicate, only crooked antennae and the spidery touch. Diagnosed with a short life of mess. The soul inside you bangs on its cage, screaming to escape, begging to die.
She stands at the doors. Everything is golden.
The book didn’t describe it like this. She hears footsteps.
She’s not in clouds. This is a kingdom.
Grass springs between her toes. Denim skies overhead.
The handle turns. She is welcomed.
Before death wrapped his hands around her throat, one skeletal finger at a time, Elizabeth spent her youthful days dancing, planting flowers and reading stories. Her one prayer was that she would get to do these things again.
When the door opens, an entire land grows before her eyes,
daisies sprout up from the lush green grass, apples
and red berries fall down from the branches, people
hang out of windows to wave, the soft ground
tickles the new skin on her feet, clouds
open up and drop a warm rainfall over the gardens.
Like a nomad, Elizabeth gathers flowers for her hair
dances barefoot through puddles with laughter
on her lips and euphoria in her eyes. ‘Come with me’.
The tone of the voice is like caramel, melting
on the tongue of a child for the first time. She follows,
finding the king with his mighty hand outstretched.
He has a sketch of the whole world drawn on his palm.
They wander through fields of yellow
enamoured by fresh scents:
exotic jasmine, pure white lilies
kisses of lemon oil, sprigs of soapy coriander.
As rain drops slip from the petals on her head, trickling
onto her shoulders, she sparkles.
The king brings her to an archway decorated with doves.
‘Close your eyes’.
With her lashes touching her cheeks,
he leads her into a room. Oak, leather, dust
meet her senses. It reminds her of summers
at Grandpa’s when bedtime stories were read all day
or nights in the bookshop, begging her father
for new novels.
She opens her eyes and sees a library
from floor to ceiling, window to wall.
In her new body and vanilla dress
she steps towards the books.
“This should last an eternity,” says the king.
In the kingdom, Elizabeth meets her grandmother who is young again. She used to tell stories of her days working in a children’s hospital. Now, she is surrounded by children: reading to them, singing to them, teaching rhymes. Elizabeth also meets the grumpy neighbour who now smiles and shines as he plays triumphant music in an orchestra as populated as a small town. She remembers thundering beats exploding from his garage when they lived in Fawn Court. She sees her friend from dance school leading a ballet class; a mentor from girl scouts teaching people how to light a fire; a woman from the pet shop feeding split peas and thistle seeds to a flock of sparrows.
We are all home.