They had to cut down a huge old tree that grew in front of the local gay/lesbian/queer/trans/etc. community center, where I am teaching a poetry class. It makes me a little sad every time I walk past there because I used to enjoy seeing the rainbow flag peeking out under the branches. I guess it was a problem, though. The tree was growing right up against the porch. But losing this one big tree has got me thinking about how I’d really like to plant some lovely oak or maple or something in front of our house here, but the yard is so small, there’s probably not really room for one. Maybe a small tree? I could settle for that, probably. A fruit tree? An ornamental tree? And I wonder whether that little pine tree we planted at the last house will survive. One of the hard parts about renting houses is that you have to leave your garden behind when you move.

But, anyway trees: Do you believe that trees can speak to you? Or that a tree can hug you back when you put your arms around it? Sometimes I do almost believe these things, even though I find it difficult to be a believer in general. But I do feel peaceful around trees. It could be just the clean air and the shade or it could be something more.


a litany. just so you know where I’m coming from.

sometimes I feel that I have no right to speak, having never been silenced

I have never been beaten with a shaft of metal.

I have never been raped.

I have never had my skin torn open with an explosion of rusted nails.

I have never been splattered by another person’s blood.

I have never pumped my blood into another’s hands.

I have never gone hungry.

I have never lost a toe, a foot, a nose to frostbite.

I have never watched my parents murdered in front of me.

I have never seen my children taken, screamed after them, held out my empty arms.

I have never been locked away, left to rot, confined to silence.

I have never been drowned or half-drowned.

I have never shot a man, a woman, a child.

I have never stood thirsty in a world made only of dust.

I have never turned to sniffing glue to numb the hunger pains.

I have never watched my house burn down.

I have never been burned to death inside my house.

I have never been turned away from my own land.

I have never been a prostitute just to make the rent payments.

I have never been denied education.

I have never been in a land at war.

I have never had the door of the hospital closed on my bleeding face.

I have never had a number tattooed into the delicate skin of my arm.

I have never lived in an apartment that smelled of nothing but urine.

I have never been gunned down for my beliefs.

I have never been decapitated.

I have never been gassed.

I have never had my body stacked, naked, with thousands of other dead.

I have never been a refugee turned away from safety at the border.

I have never been dragged to death down a sandpaper street.

I have never sat in a cement cell, waited for the electric chair, the lethal injection.

I have never been wrongly accused.

I have never been addicted to powder or needles or pills.

I have never been pushed to the ground and trampled in a crowd.

I have never leapt from a seventeenth story window.

I have never had my tongue cut from my mouth.

I have never been trapped deep underground in a collapsed coal mine.

I have never spat blood.

I have never sipped blood.

I have never sickened and wasted in the midst of an epidemic.

I have never stepped on a land mine.

I have never been touched where I didn’t want to be touched.

I have never been kidnapped.

I have never disappeared without a trace.

I have never been silenced.