Tree pose, vrksasana, requires rooting, lifting and balancing. The spine links earth and sky. Aligned, the body stills, receptive and listening. With stanzas stacked like vertebrae, Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s poem imagines the trees’ nights, as they keep watch in “starshine.” The poem is from Susan’s book, The Fortunate Islands.
Who is to say
the trees aren’t frightened too
waiting in the cold in the dark
keeping watch while the wind
stomps heavily up the invisible
stairs to the cells to the attics
of the leaves while the crawlers
and climbers and fliers crash
through their tangled heads
like nightmares while the white
hawk glides while the silver cockroach
of the moon slides over the black
sky-boards while the limbs creak
and the walls of the branches
groan full of stickpins and wings
full of bones and feathers
full of jaws and razor teeth
while the souls of the dead
creep back to their graves
in the jungles of the faraway
in the absolutes of belief
or superstition who is to say
they don’t wake exhausted
before dawn having thrashed
having thrashed about all night
in their beds of earth in their twisted
sheets of snuffed starshine?
– Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Pair with: vrksasana, tree pose
Speak: Without punctuation (except for the final question mark), the poem is carried along by sound. Allow the sounds to fully fill your mouth, savoring each word. Include space, as a brief pause, between the stanzas so the poem has room to breathe. The question ends with the last line. Let the question linger, ringing like a struck bell. (Robert Pinsky’s The Sounds of Poetry is a good resource.)
Consider: Ask yourself, “Who is to say?” and let whatever comes to mind complete the phrase.
Note: Poem used by permission of the author.