Spirit of the Deciduous

by Andrew Watson


The person in the tree never speaks
not in words; but they give
endlessly and golden. They leave us gifts of
sweet-nectar fruit,
leaves, and bark
Honeyed sticks tangled in our hair when we rise and wake
 
We make charms with tan bark skin,
none that would stop an arrow
But we have seen the way they have protected us —
this person in the tree —
they have watched,
they have stood,
they have grown and grown and grown
since the beginnings of the smallest among us
and since the endings of the ones who have slept long in the earth
Beneath their strong branches so long
this tree, this person
grew with us, and we with them
Our mischievous spirit of the deciduous, who brushes against unchanging cycles
 
Each of us and each of our children sat silently with them,
our girls, our boys,
our both and our neither
But when we are silent
the person in the tree speaks always — speaks the world
with birdsong, rustling leaves, sleepy sighs as we twine ourselves around their roots and
around one another
 
Not once did the person in the tree smuggle away a child,
as some had warned they would
the only farewells were the lost children who came to them
and listened, and left to find things that were hidden
(We could swear the tree smiled at those times, 
concentric halos of mid-afternoon light)
 
But now the leaves stop falling —
as the long autumn starts to sleep
there comes a heavy winter
The person in the tree speaks less,
the tree bears less fruit, and even birdsong is quickly forgotten
We never saw the person in the tree but we see even less as time goes on
there is more coldness in their mantle
and in one long morning the last leaf falls to ground
 
we sleep poorly that night, mourning some new change
but though we wake with hearts of sorrow we find joy outside our doors
dainty piles of golden seeds, sparkling in the dawn
 
We've never spoken
to the person in the tree
Still, there is a message in these seeds
unsure if we are promised to or if
we make a promise,
"Carry me," they ask,
as life kindles in our palms

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Andrew Watson is a PhD candidate from Adelaide, Australia, who loves undoing gender in curious ways and drinking strange new teas. Their poetry can be found in Liminality and Strange Horizons. Drop in to find them for a chat on twitter at @magicspacegirl!

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