Clara: A Poem (from upcoming novel The Painter)

Have you ever danced with the willow?

Or sang in the bright frigid morn

With the nightingale fresh from her pillow

Of tragedies, deep and forlorn?


Well I have, you see, I’ve sung every tune

And they’re all stuck up in my head!

But there’s one I must tell, one nightingale’s croon,

Before I find all of you dead.


Far, far away in a land green and gold

Lived a boy with a wandering spirit.

His mother would say, “You’re getting too old

To run off!” But he just wouldn’t hear it.


He ran through the woods, he ran through the river

Until one day he was stopped

By a sight so bold yet so soft – a quiver,

A spark! He stopped and he gawped!


A tree – a tree like he’d ne’er seen before

Clothed in the silk of a princess.

Amethyst, lavender, a priceless ore!

Beauty no man has seen since.


He returned to that tree every day for a week,

Two weeks, a month, a year,

Whispering his ardor to her leaves

Questioning not if she could hear.


And she could, of course! Trees always listen

To our mozies and our musings.

They see in certain clarity

The thoughts we find confusing.


The young man’s tree was listening – yes!

But absolutely silent

Until day three hundred sixty five

When she opened a single violet


And said, “My dear young lover

In all my tender years

I’ve never seen another man

With passion drenched in tears!


Be still, my sweet, and listen close

To these whispers which surround you

This whole wide world I’ve searched to find

True love – and sweet – I’ve found you.”


The young lover gasped in darling surprise

For of course he was delighted

To find his deepest most passionate words

One hundred percent requited!


Through the following year, their young love grew strong

But another force was expanding.

Deep in the land to which the lovers belonged

Grew a deadly misunderstanding.


Mankind grew bitter towards the Earth

Who defied all their commands.

The sky was too hot, the soil too dry

Hatred was brewed in the lands.


War on the trees! War on the Sun!

War on the grass in the fields!

By the time these fires are over and done

Sole power we shall yield!


With Nature herself, a small tongue of fire,

They laughed and lit her ablaze.

The trees tried to fight, the clouds tried to strike

But the noble, brave fighters were razed.


As forests were turned to wastelands,

The young man turned to his tree,

“My darling Wisteria, what shall we do?”

She shivered and sighed, “Let things be.”


“I can’t, my love, I never will!

I’ll fight until I’m dead!

In your shadow I’ve found my place,

This love, it can’t – it won’t end!”


He toiled for hours to dig her up

And plant her in a cave.

“These tall rock walls will save you.

My darling, please! Be brave!”


His tree was weeping, tenderly,

For she’d never seen a day

Without sweet Sun to comfort her

Or rain to soothe the pain.


Each day her love would visit her

With water from the river.

The coolness revived her spirits

Oh water! The sweet life giver.


The days grew dark, the nights grew long,

The war raged on and on.

The lovers knew the end was nigh,

Soon the river would be gone.


They spoke of love eternal

But fear prepared them to grieve.

Each night he whispered to his tree,

“I promise, I’ll never leave.”


The day, it came, when each of them knew

One breath would be her last.

They clung to each other in silence

Listening to each gunshot and blast.


He wrapped her branches tightly round

His arms, his legs, his face

And let his tears intertwine

With her amaranthine embrace.


My nightingale was close that night

And watched them as they died.

Victims of fear and folly and farce,

Of vanity and pride.


Before mankind killed all the Earth

My nightingale took to the skies.

She flew as far as she could to the East

Preserving the lovers last cries.


Someday too, she will die,

And I suppose I will as well.

True love’s a tale we all have heard

As trite as Heaven and Hell.




One comment

  1. Jenny Duncan says:

    Beautiful. And sad. Yet heartwarming.


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