The Tree Poem by David Brooks

The Tree

I go out to see Chloe, for the first time in ages,
and find her pacing the driveway,
looking ten years older
and even more exhausted than she is.
There is a man asleep on her sofa
and she can’t get rid of him; he’s burnt
her arms with a cigarette the night before
and stolen three packs of Marlborough,
and earlier, a month ago, took
her mobile phone and all her pension money.
That’s how he got in, she said, claiming
to have brought it back, but all he had
were a few tabs of speed he told her she could sell.
I throw him out – it isn’t hard: he must sense
the fury in my bones – then take her off
to eat something, buy groceries.
Afterward we sit out in the yard
talking. Life has been so hard for her
and Lord knows I’ve been little help.
At the bottom, near her fence, there’s a tall
and slender eucalypt, with salmon-coloured bark
so smooth you want to touch it. When I say as much,
she tells me it had been in bloom
until only a few nights ago, large golden crowns of it,
and that for two weeks now
the flying-foxes have come each dusk
and clambered about it all night long
getting drunk on the nectar, treating it
as if it were their local pub. The trunk
has borers, she explains – what I took
for spatterings of fruit-bat dung
are actually the gum-tree bleeding.
Now that I look more closely I can see
their traces all the way up
and places where the foliage
looks greyer than the rest.
It stresses the tree, she says,
it has to dig deeper than you’d think
to find the sap it needs.
I think of you, of course,
how drunk I can get on the taste of you,
how the sap rises, and then of my sister, how tall
and slender she once was,
then of the tree in all of us,
nothing more, just of the tree,
stirring gently in the breeze, swaying
in the night wind,
drawing its sap from somewhere, deep down, as all trees do.

David Brooks

David Brooks

Canberra / Australia
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