.

As a child, they could not keep me from trees
And craggy, tangled limbs and aching arms.
I loved the camouflage, the filtered breeze,
Nose-smacked tang of moss and far-off farms.

Grandma’s had a crook just right for hiding.
I savored hard-won silence in my perch,
Nursed calloused hands, imagined higher climbs;
A flip-flop dropped to quash Mom’s frantic search.

Dad’s towering Sequoia, lofty trophy
For hours of tortuous travel up the coast;
Eyes ascend the spine of something holy,
A castle crowned in eagles, stars and ghosts.

Now, palming gnarled bark, this leathered skin
Cannot resist the rousing, reckless quest
To chase and play where only heaven’s been,
When trees goad me to climb, to hide, to rest.

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Julie Desmond is a writer and career coach living in the heart of Minneapolis, MN. Her poems have appeared in Lower Stumpf Lake Review and Diotima and she has published two books of creative nonfiction.


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15 Responses

  1. Sultana Raza

    Love the imagery and the sentiments expressed in the poem. Reminds me of friends and relatives who loved to climb trees.

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    As a former tree-climber (horse-chestnut trees for conkers in the distant past), I can get behind the sentiment of this lovingly nostalgic piece. Thank you, Julie.

    Reply
  3. Gail

    Isn’t astonishing how infrequently people look up? In addition to trees, I used to climb out my bedroom window and sit on the roof of the front porch, mostly unnoticed. People who walk at night forget that, though they can see no one, they are not necessarily alone; someone may hear.

    Tree climbers everywhere would love your poem.

    Reply
    • Julie Desmond

      Thanks, Gail. I love the mystery and possibility of trees. I appreciate your comments!

      Reply
  4. Marie

    As a kid who climbed trees to escape my huge, crazy family, I love how your poem brings me back to those moments of deep comfort that I now appreciate as an old lady. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    The first three stanzas offer a pleasant childhood memory, extending in the last to a more sophisticated dryadic conclusion. I especially admire the expression, “palming gnarled bark,” which suggests that the speaker’s now-leathered skin (much more bark-like than the child’s calloused hands) has lost feeling except in the softer inside area of the palm. The woman who still can’t resist the quest for the heights of trees seems to be in the process of becoming one. The tree-attraction goads not only her continued chase and play, but even her poem’s final words, “to climb, to hide, to rest.” Only there within the trunk does the chase cease! Well done.

    Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    Julie – This certainly brings back strong memories for me of my nest-robbing days as a child, at a time when the law was much more lenient for certain black-listed species (although unthinkable today). Magpies were easy game because they almost invariably nest in hawthorn bushes in the UK, but rooks were the prize, nesting as they did in the very crown of a 60-80ft elm or beech tree where you often had to distribute your weight between two or three branches that wouldn’t individually support your weight. My favourite line in your poem is the first of the fourth stanza with its palming gnarled bark and a grave accent on the e of gnarled would be useful I think. But the whole poem is vg and very evocative.

    Reply
  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I absolutely adore this poem, especially the delicious line; “Nose-smacked tang of moss and far-off farms” which has my senses reeling while taking me back to the gnarled trees and skinned knees of youth. Bravo, Julie! Bravo!

    Reply

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