Usasa Amur Trees

Had you not been planted 
in Mr. M's lilac green apple
tiger lilied garden -

Had he not died in his bed
so close by you could have
touched him with your 
quivering leaf tips
but for the invisible glass
window between you -

Had you not begun dying
yourselves soon after
sundered from his love
and the protection
his fragrant hedges
offered from the harsh
extreme prairie weather
we so fear and admire -

Had I not chanced
upon the exquisite
little white house
in that fragrant yard
I would soon call my own -

Had it not been late August
and the sun still hot
and ever so pleasant 
in the whispering shade
your green leaves made -

Had I not found
the simple red brick
fire pit that fit so 
perfectly between your
burnished golden
coppery trunks -

Had we not feasted
and sung songs
and recited poems
under your graceful
broad branches
around a bright fire
all through that
lingering fall -

Had you not come
back so spectacularly
to bless us for another
dozen  years with
your Siberian
magnificence -

Had you not bloomed
again every spring
and brought forth
thousands of tiny
bitter black cherries
beloved of the
neighbourhood's
chickadees and crows -

Had you not shown me
the astonishing reach
of your spirit roots
all the way back
to the Siberian taiga
of your magical birth
along the glittering
dark underground river
that must have given
the Black Dragon its name -

Had you not taken me
to the Ceremony of Light
that the Old Wise Ones make
where the Tigers fly
and the Eagle Hunters cry
for the whole world's sake -

I wouldn't have known
that the World Tree
is every tree and lives also
in me and that the great
turning Wheel of Fire
is its crown and we are
all singing and dancing
cosmic stars flickering
in its gyre up and down

 

From the 2018 national poetry anthology Heartwood: For the Love of Trees, edited by Lesley Strutt (League of Canadian Poets, 2018). Copyright remains with the author Di Brandt.