I Want To Be a Tree
I want to be a tree.
I know that this desire lives outside the curriculum.
Irrationality is man’s favourite home –
One man’s love is another’s superstition.
I am the tree that wears passion’s baggy clothes.
My hair soaks fear, my leaves the planet’s poison air.
There is memory, always half-eaten,
and there’s sleep, inevitably rural.
There’s also sunlight, always a neighbour.
It’s summer. And so the road’s deathless fever.
I want to be a tree,
as naturally branched as the body’s posture in sleep.
To woo birds – they avoid men and motion to sit on trees.
I’m leaning against a statue of sunlight.
The wind affects us unequally.
I wonder why tree branches
do not behave like curtains in the wind.
Or why we fail to hear creepers knocking at the door.
I want to be a tree.
The wind escaped being written.
The fire’s autograph, the shrivelled sunlight on trees.
Seasons arrive like prompters in a play.
The trees perform without the need to pluck claps.
I am an extra filling out the frame.
Change, cycles, the spiky heads of moss,
the menstrual stillness and the piracy of affection.
I want to be a tree.
Air a doll between my leaves,
prayer as inconsequential as mimicry.
Only blood needs religion.
And so there is none among plants.
Only love, as accommodative as a paragraph.
Love needn’t be reciprocal –
How else can we love the dead?
The earth loses ownership of dead trees.
I imagine my funeral sometimes.
You, for whom the guitar is an integer of sadness,
you who thought I was invincible like crushed paper, saying,
“My world has lost its chlorophyll”.
You can tell the age of a person from how he spits.
You can see how infants are beginners –
how their drool is everywhere, how it makes mush of contexts.
And so with tree sap.
The awkward sprouting from everywhere when sapling –
stem, leaf, bud and root –
unlike an aged tree’s leaks: proper, sombre, tidy,
like blowing your sap into a hankie.
With age everything turns viscous.
For hardening is a marker of age.
Knuckles, calluses, sores, scars; and the heart.
Madness is loose, fluid, it easily finds itself a home.
But not wisdom – maturity pickles, needs a container.
And so the viscosity of tree sap, the density of ageing madness.
When tree sap flows, your ignorance about the foreign grows nests.
For you are never sure whether it’s a signal for beginning or end.
Sap is the tree’s puppet, like tears are to the human heart.
Sap, noun and verb, and the difference in between.
Sap is loan and debt. (A half song is also a song.
For when you are angry, you are still yourself.)
Once, the light became beautiful by resting on you.
Now it’s solidified into sap, turned white.
And you’ve become canned food, a future without bones.
You Think You Can Repair Flowers
You think you can repair flowers.
You think you understand the velocity of fruition.
You put the night’s fast through a sieve.
You are convinced that the desire for height is a mistake.
You argue that plants and people do not need to be tall.
You wonder whether noise ever dies.
You are angry that the road is the central metaphor of our times.
You are disgusted because it excludes trees.
You often ask about the gravity that keeps planets in place.
You think only trees know that secret, and hence their mimicry.
You hate fashion – there is nothing more artificial than horizontal stripes.
You admire the stylishness of bamboo – its minimalist extravagance.
You are confused why leaves on trees do not need clothes clips.
You come to the poet for breakfast. Trees begin eating at dawn.
You’ve met him before, in the impractical demand for kindness inside a river.
You believe that poets are priests – both rub the translucence of words.
You close your eyes when you meet him at last: he is stitching water.
You are rearranging scattered quotes in your mind. No tree is an island.
You stop to breathe, as if that would stop your ageing.
You aren’t sure you’ve heard the poet right: “Did you oil the plants?”
You knew it once, how trees turned to oil, but in your hand is water, injured.
You snatch the skeleton of soap from the poet’s palm.
You spit on it and the tree becomes a postage stamp.
SUMANA ROY’S first book, How I Became a Tree, a work of non-fiction, was published in India in February. Her poems and essays have appeared in Granta, Guernica, LARB, Dru
Image Credit: SHOUNAK MAJUMDER