Tribute to the Fallen Giantess

After the windstorm

the massive eucalypt

lies prone across the stairs

the familiar fleshy trunk

barber-poled in green pink beige

skin

pocked in places

(successful battles

with borer beetles)

pale branches

two feet around

helpless

felled.

The tree man arrives.

He says: Six men.

A full chainsaw day  and  maybe two.

Even sideways, it’s twenty feet high.

Shakes his head

and gives me a good talking to.

Had I pruned it

reduced its shaggy bulk

subtracted boughs and limbs,

it might be alive today.

“Took that wind like a sail,”

he says.

But I’m learning lately

maybe you can’t control everything.

Trees fall

and there is change.

A death, much like our own.

And we too will leave

a hole in our own backyard world

sun and sky where once

a great tree plumed.

A hundred feet

of shimmering fragrant grayish-green

the twisting limbs

of a sensual giantess.

The eucalyptus lies on its side

across the hillside stairs

stunned at the change of posture.

It’s very slow to recognize

what’s happened.

Its leaves are still so green.

such is the life locked in its woody girth

too vast for sudden death.

But the tree man says

we can’t make a table,

or even a set of garden benches.

We’ll be lucky to get it down at all.

It must be reduced

to wood chips, to be fired out

onto a freeway embankment.

Carried out as firewood.

Like a sail, the man said

reproachfully.

It died resisting the wind.

Huge and defiant.

I find myself taking the  lesson opposite

The tree man’s intention.

I say, good for you, tree.

You died whole and grand

Utterly extended into the silhouette

you were born to inhabit.

Yes, I think it’s better to live like that

Immense, ungainly even

Than to let caution trim us small

and live as half of what we could have been.

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17 Responses to “Tribute to the Fallen Giantess”

  1. Thanks for this lovely tribute to a grand species with the temerity to face the howling winds. Glad she didn’t hit the house in her grand surrender. Stay safe and wise.

  2. There’s so much of this to like such as “barber-poled green pink beige.” Really excellent.

  3. Beautiful tribute to life and death–the tree’s and ours.

  4. Fallen trees — we don’t realize how truly big they are until they’ve fallen across our yard and maybe on into the neighbor’s. But there they were all this time, a huge and kindly presence.

  5. Barbara Says:

    Very nice poem!

  6. Profoundly sad and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your lovely words and thoughts and I am sorry for your loss. I am grateful you had the experience, depth and insight to put your memory into such meaningful words.

  7. Tony Peyser Says:

    Janet,

    I’m guessing that poetry is something you don’t write often. That should change. This is lovely, haunting and memorable. A eulogy that can be recited over other trees all over town that have literally fallen by that proverbial wayside. Your eucalyptus had vitality in spirit and now possesses immortality in verse. Your tribute even allows it to wind up at the end of its life bigger than life. Here’s to more trees down the road for all of us and more poems down the line from you.

    Tony Peyser

  8. Absolutely wonderful. Kilmer was inspired to write that a tree is the loveliest of poems, but a fallen one is the saddest of eulogies.

  9. Many years ago, a friend & I planted 3 eucalyptus trees in a vacant lot in Silver Lake that we owned (next to the home I live in) Twenty years later, the lot (still vacant) had been sold several times and the trees grew tall and beautiful. One day I awoke to the horrific sound of chainsaws. The current owner of the lot was ‘clearing’ it. Looking out at the trees, I saw them felled, one by one. It was one of the saddest days of my life. Your beautiful poem captures that, even though the ‘death’ circumstances are different. Thank you so much for your stunningly beautiful eulogy.

  10. What a beautiful tribute to one of God’s beautiful creations. We have so many oaks that have died or hopefully gone dormant in the long Texas draught. I am holding my breath until Spring, hoping they will revive and I won’t need to read your moving poem over my own fallen giants. Thanks for sharing your feelings in such a powerful way.
    Blessings,
    Linda

  11. I agree with Tony and others–write more poetry. Like my own towering eucalyptus tree whose dead leaves were liberated, I was enveloped by the wind of your poem. Your prose has always incorporated the lyrical, and this poem has much strength and meaning.

    It’s also motivated me to call the tree trimmer so that I can have some of the branches trimmed.

  12. Nadia Says:

    This is so powerful. I love the message. I want to apply it to my own life.

  13. Thanks Janet. I was too sad about my own fallen oak tree to write about it at the time but maybe I can now. Living in Marin, I was further deterred from poetry by neighbors stopping to ask me solemnly if I’d named the tree and offering to do a Tibetan drum ceremony for its spirit–and no, Cyndi was NOT one of these! Take care and I loved your poem

  14. Tobey ritz Says:

    Loved this poem…

  15. Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.

    Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

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