The Trees

Dedicated to the trees of Callum Brae Nature Reserve, Canberra, Australia which are under threat from a proposed crematorium complex

For me

It’s the trees

The gum trees

They welcomed me

To this land

When no one else did

Where are you from?

What’s that accent?

Go back to where you came from

But where is that
where did I come from

So many places and spaces

And peoples

And struggles

And protests

And learning

And sharing

Go back to where you came from

Embrace them all

And I do

When I stop

And stare at a gum tree

I know you

You know me

I embrace you

I look up to you

I admire you

Your colours your shapes

Each tree unique

Yet grounded in the same soil

Gum trees are elsewhere

Where I’ve lived

California

Seen as a threat

Live through the dry

Can catch fire

Gum trees in California

all look the same

Is it because they were torn

Out of their original home

in Kenya

Gum trees all look the same

But in Australia

Each one different

Orange

Pink

White

Grey

Brown

Black

Shaggy bark

Smooth bark

Scribbly bark

When in doubt

Where you are

Do you belong

Look at a gum tree

Admire their shape

Their tenacity

Their survival through fire

Walk up to the tree

Look up to the tree

Embrace the tree

Then you will know that

You are alive

You belong

You are the tree

One day I will be a tree

Or perhaps I always was

I try to write

To paint

To sketch

A gum tree

Or a forest

I have not yet captured

Their essence

On paper

Sydney Nolan

Captured the essence

Of gum tree forests

Yet he had to have

Ned Kelly

Hiding within

Behind the trees

What is the relationship

Of Ned Kelly to gum trees?

What about the wombat hole

And the dead soldier who fell in

What does this say about the settlers

The colonialists relationship to the land?

Was it Ned Kelly who opposed them?

Was it the land itself

that could not be

Completely conquered?

I see the gum trees daily

I think of them daily

I embrace them daily

This is what keeps me going

When denied by society

The trees are still there

Author: Pamela Collett

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I have a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.Sc. from Cornell University. I have lived and worked in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California as well as in Washington, DC. Outside the United States, I lived and worked in Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya. I currently live in Canberra, Australia. I edited three books: Bold Plum: with the Guerillas in China's War against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay; Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia by James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell; and Solo vale si piensas rápido by Mehedy Lopez, a book of poetry in Spanish. In 2016, I published a book of my poetry and drawings, Silence Spoken. I have taught communication skills, English as a second language, and English for journalists (in Beijing, China) at university and secondary school levels. I was a features writer for the Daily Journal, (Caracas, Venezuela), and The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am a member of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Writers Centre, active in a writers’ group and a contributor to poetry readings, That Poetry Thing, in Canberra, Australia.

3 thoughts on “The Trees”

  1. Nature likely doesn’t have the same consciousness as humans, but your poem made me think about nature’s reaction to “invasive” species. Rarely do species invade on their own. Usually, this happens because of humans. Regardless, the concept still happens, and nature has a reaction to an unknown species. Maybe humans can learn from that somehow?

    Like

  2. Do we have gum trees in CA?lovely poem… Margot Smith510-486-8010 (no text)Margots999@aol.com

    Like

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