The whole world is a feast of runaway craving,
of a curse that has outrun its uses.
Early on, our ancestors twisted up,
moved root through rock, spread fragile first leaves wide.
All land was new, mountainous, unsoiled.
The forests that grew have lasted so long,
spreading across the world at glacial pace.
We stretch and recede, grow up and move out.
Famine and war will parch your lips, drag you
below the Earth where we feast on your flesh.
What is breath but the ambrosia of trees?
You suckle our gaseous exhalations.
We wean you down to Hades at your death.
Who are these children who warm,
strain, and devour the wide earth,
desert bursting at its seams?
We are the trees who were once never wronged,
not axe-culled, not forced to grow through fences.
The Thunderer and those bright kin alone
touched us, burned us, but we claimed the wide land.
Forgotten myths say we gave birth to you.
We danced with Hermes on sloping mountains,
later with Pan whom my tall sister bore.
To me came Artemis’ strict retinue.
We ran in those places no man dared see.
Then your people grew up and tamed the wilds.
The gifts we brought you at your birth were myrrh,
frankincense, and storax, life-giving scents
beloved of gods, the sweat from our bark.
Erysichthon was condemned
as he felled that first grove.
Its nymph guardian begged, and
sap pooled at her feet like blood.
Forests fell back, expanding horizons.
When we seduced you, we brought you to groves,
breathed in the incense and breath you exhaled,
taught you secrets of bees and bitter plants.
You worshipped us alongside stone statues.
We know which of you swung the axe to cut
deep into the sap-giving arteries,
your grandmothers and sisters cut to stumps.
This is how we learned how to give curses.
Now all-consuming hunger binds us all.
Persephone opens wide arms to those
initiated into mysteries
shining like white cypress bark and gold leaves.
We punish with a hunger.
That murderer devoured
until he bit down deep on
his own tender flesh, ripped hard.
Our lives stretch so long that none can compare.
Curses work best when exercised lightly.
Torchers of nymphs, bearers of distress, you
smashed so many of us, pried open trunks,
carved once-sacred wood to ford the wide sea.
Rage boils thick in our sap when nymphs die.
We witness trunks uprooted, roots twisted
hard from a fall driven by gravity.
More often, they’re intact, dead from disease.
Dryads decay hidden in scrapped branches.
What you give the forest opens the way.
Here in mountain places, philosophers
found pathways in sunbeams mottled with green.
The hexed consume without end,
now without limit or death.
Their tools extract Plouton’s wealth;
all the world weeps out poison.
In perfumed shrines where our secret teachings
saturated air, ground, and cool water,
offerings blackened cave ceilings with soot.
We cannot suckle those who have breath, not
until your hearts root down in awe of place.
Make white cakes covered in sticky honey.
Go to the chamber of the ones who dwell
among the countless wronged dead, they who howl,
who listen to sapless whispers of shades.
Pacify them and be made whole again.
Come to the mountain, come to the gorge-nook.
The water we pull up through our roots tastes
sweet of nectar and metal, wilds and waste.
We repeat the dead ones’ names.
This world is old, the list great,
our curses worn like old silt.
We watch all in reflections
metal and glass leave, your eyes
searching, tamed lightning your guide.
You linger in pallid storefront lights, dark
patterns ghosting across your distracted
faces, forest yet close. Look up. See us.
Sooner or later, your meandering
steps will remember sacred rites once more.
Sooner or later, emptiness will tire
you—you will reach for the wholeness of yore.