The Selfishness of the Trees

margaret_mccarthy_albero-project-poem-rMARGARET MCCARTHY



It is the cruelest spectacle,
they put on such clouds
of white that allow you to believe
in some endless generosity;
you remember how you looked this time last year

and the pear oaks allow you to believe for just a moment
that we are all made from heaven,

forget we come from dirt,

forget we will be razed.

The pear oaks mock you; they have no problems
with renewal and decay.
See how they bend and laugh;
you will never be as lovely or as perfectly

Now you may say it’s simple vanity or the confidence
natural to those born beautiful,
but as their white buds morph to deepest green,
as they stand in cliquish groups, thick as thieves, flourishing aggressively,
you understand
they guard a secret they will never share with you.
It is you who is green
with envy.


You put away your black winter coat.
The next day brought an April snow;
sprout yellow buds shrouded, lace white flowers frost-laden,
perfume gone,
gaily colored holiday eggs buried, dormant below.

Now the trees’ sensual dress is traded
for this more formal, minimalist aesthetic;
how modern they look in classic black and white,
how elegant in their business attire,
these ruthless executives comfortable with sudden death.
Upset is their natural order.


The sap-green leaves are splendid and extravagantly large
in resurrection; like Doubting Thomas you did not believe
April light could render this.

The late day sun kisses them all
and at that moment of their big reveal, that miraculous performance, you yearn
to kiss back; you forgive the selfishness of the trees.

You will forgive them again, tonight
beneath a perfect moon

and endless times after that.

Margaret McCarthy’s poetry collection Notebooks from Mystery School (Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2015) was selected as a New Women’s Voices Award finalist.
Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, journals and anthologies including The Pagan Muse: Poems of Ritual and Inspiration (Kensington Publishing), Cyphers Literary Magazine (Ireland), Working Papers in Irish Studies (Nova SouthEastern University), HIV HERE AND NOW ON-LINE POETRY PROJECT, Home Planet News, Gargoyle Magazine, Shaking Like A Mountain: Online Literature about Contemporary Music, Poetry New Zealand and California State Poetry Society Quarterly, to name a few.
A graduate of NYC’s School of Visual Arts, McCarthy works as a professional photographer in New York City; her photographs have been widely exhibited.
She publishes a web broadside, A VISION AND A VERSE, combining her imagery and poetry.

The picture in this article is hers.

An Italian translation is here.