You are here

Birthday Trees

Dorothea Lasky

Ten trees are the things that you find when you are walking alone


He said that calm is what we wanted and that was all that I remembered


The devil is when you meet someone meaner than you


But what if you are at the cruelest point of humanity and that doesn’t happen


Are you disappointed in spring and that it wasn’t what you expected


When you let go of life with a thud


When it was really your patience that did you in


Trees can be named by their leaves or their bark


And when you happen upon a tree in the memory of your childhood


Maybe then it seems pretty important


I had one such tree or I should say I do have


It was so enormous then and now with its thick bark


I never named it and of course it’s gone by now


It’s too late for me to have this sort of moment with it


And isn’t it the self that is the hardest to write about


Isn’t it harder to be more than they thought you could be when they planned you


When you lived for so long


And then you thought you were a good person


Or that you were completely aware of what you were doing and you thought this is it


When people say the sun gives us everything maybe they aren’t thinking that hard


Certainly the sun couldn’t be more important but I don’t see it anymore


When they said I only had to be myself that’s just not what they meant at all


I kept going on, begging for anyone to save me


But by that late age I realized these were silly dreams


I was so big when I was born no one knew what to do with me


They gave me a name but it’s too late for that


I just want to be saved but by whom and why should they


When you meet the devil in the dream he’s usually the person who is meaner than you


If you are very mean you will only recognize him as the thing in the mirror


When they say be prepared for anything they really don’t mean that


They will be watching if you are but also they don’t care if you are or you aren’t


No one cares if you have a memory of the tree of your childhood


And what it looks like and what it was to you


When you die all of that tree will be dissolved into something like a peril


When people in your life die you can say for the rest of your life that’s my angel


But maybe if it had been the other way around


You wouldn’t be so eager about all of that nomenclature


When someone says bring me to the body of water they really mean they are in love with you


When she met me she wasn’t so sure it was me but I was sure


When you meet yourself in the dream you are usually the one that is meaner than you


But really it takes a while to realize you aren’t mean at all you are very kind


And you can be kind again


It’s just that easy!


When you reach the body of water in the dream all you have to do is jump right in


Don’t think about your body being all in there and what the slick feeling will be like


Only think I only have this one time to do this so I better do this right


When it’s your turn to turn around and see who has been waiting


You better be wearing a tiny locket and have in it a picture of your mother


Otherwise no one will know where to place you


When you meet your mother in the dream she will be the one who is nicer than you


And she will smile and smile the meaner you get


When I thought about all of those things one afternoon


When I met the devil in the dream


Then about how he had left seemingly so suddenly


I’d rather we’d have had an opportunity to talk more


Now he was my angel for all eternity but I’d rather it had been me


No I don’t mean that but I mean I’d rather we’d have gone to lunch


Instead of how it all turned out this way


They say the hardest part about writing about the self is that the self is writing it


When you meet the hardest part in the dream it will be about growing old


I promise you


The devil is right about everything and he is never rusty


No he is metal thru and thru and so shiny


When you meet the very bad statue in the dream


You will be inclined to think it’s the devil


No instead it’s yourself and you should probably be scared of it


There’s life and then there’s life


When you meet the metal devil in the dream


You will be tempted to say that’s me


But in general things don’t work that way and you should get used to it


When you go on a walk, find the ten trees that are the most beautiful to you


If they don’t have names yet, name them


You are connected to trees in ways you will never fully realize


When you meet the tree in the dream you will be almost sure that’s the devil


But no instead it will be you


Standing tall and proud


All of these years


In spite of everything


Part of 'In the Beginning of Covid-19', a series of poems curated by Jason Dodge in 2020

Explore more