For Me It Was The Trees | Michael Mark


The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.

Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
undeniably dead.

Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,

beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,

it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.

Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?

From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.

In my bed, haunted.

I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.

Michael Mark is the author of two books of fiction, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has appeared and is scheduled to appear in The New York Times, UPAYA, Awakening Consciousness Magazine, Sleet, Forge, as well as other nice places. His greatest inspiration is his wife and then the rest of the world.


    • Peter Friedman

      I think that the way you see things that most take for granted is amazing. You have always been acutely aware of details that were beyond the obvious. I would read your work all day long if it was out there to be consumed.
      Peter Friedman

  1. So beautifully written Michael. I want to breathe in more of what you write. I will wait and envision myself sitting under the under my own buddha tree. Curious which of the many beautiful trees that we saw do you envision… the line skinless fingers clawing at the vastness…

    • michael

      Patrick – exactly, I wanted to get out of that jeep just for a moment but reason held me back, already planning a new journey. Thanks for reading!

  2. Pat

    Love reading your poetry, miss hearing you read it in Africa. I watch you taking pictures of the tree and could tell they meant something to you. I admire how you put those feelings into words.What a gift, thanks for sharing. Can I copy it to my African scrapbook? When I go back to Africa I look for you under the trees.

    • michael

      Pat – Thanks for looking for me under a tree in Africa – please let me know if you find me. Of course – copy and paste in your scrapbook – I would happy to sit there with you! Thanks for reading the poem! I look forward to seeing more of your art!

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