The Speaking Tree

written by

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  for Robert Payne ?
Great Alexander sailing was from his true course turned
By a young wind from a cloud in Asia moving
Like a most recognizable most silvery woman;
Tall Alexander to the island came.
The small breeze blew behind his turning head.
He walked the foam of ripples into this scene.
The trunk of the speaking tree looks like a tree-trunk
Until you look again.  Then people and animals
Are ripening on the branches;  the broad leaves
Are leaves;  pale horses, sharp fine foxes
Blossom;  the red rabbit falls
Ready and running.  The trunk coils, turns,
Snakes, fishes.  Now the ripe people fall and run,
Three of them in their shore-dance, flames that stand
Where reeds are creatures and the foam is flame.
Stiff Alexander stands.  He cannot turn.
But he is free to turn : this is the speaking tree,
It calls your name.  It tells us what we mean.

© Katha Pollitt