Elegy for a City Tree*
“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favourite spot on the floor, I look up at the blue sky and the chestnut tree.” — Diary of Anne Frank, 23rd February 1944.
Behind the bookcase in an airless annexe,
Anne sits on the floor. Cold creeps into her bones.
Through magpie eyes, she stares at the sky,
imagining the whispered symphony of leaves.
Above, treetops swing and sway.
The flutter of a leaf is a beckoning finger,
a green key. She imagines herself becoming
a wooden woman, sinking toes like roots
to drink deep of soil, to squirm among worms.
Each night she dreams of green:
the caresses of sunlight and starlight,
the squawking quarrels of crows,
the swell and growth of glossy nuts
like the prickle of a first adolescent blush.
Under a harsh bark, spiral rings spin
as concentric circles hum like a heartbeat within.
Tattoos of time revolve around her sapling core.
She can almost hear the swirling spin of stories told
echoing silently around those that are yet to unfold.
*The tree Anne Frank saw was a white horse chestnut, over 170 years old. On August 23rd 2012, the tree fell.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in many literary journals in Ireland and internationally, most recently in France, Mexico, USA, Scotland and England. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her a literature bursary (2011 and 2013). She was a winner of Wigtown Gaelic poetry contest, the Scottish National Poetry Prize in 2012, shortlisted for the Jonathan Swift Award and Comórtas Uí Néill both in 2011 and 2012. She was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. Doireann’s Irish collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. Her pamphlet of English poems Ouroboros has recently been selected for the longlist of The Venture Award (UK). Her website is www.doireannnighriofa.com