A Poem for Earth Day 2020: Mother Maple by Brenda Cave-James

I am copying and pasting this from my dear friend Anne C. Bailey’s blog. The link is here. I am sorry that the tree had to be felled (I don’t believe in chain saws). It’s a lovely poem though, that sums up the spirit of Earth Day. Do follow Anne’s blog. A Jamaican by birth and a writer, historian, and professor of History at SUNY Binghamton (State University of New York). Anne focuses on “race, slavery, refugees, diasporas, African American, Caribbean and African studies, human rights, history, and memory.” Her most recent publication is The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History.

You may not know the wonderful maple tree, which turns a thousand shades of brilliant red and gold in the autumn (fall). Below is a photo I took in Vermont, dazzled by the colors of maples and other trees…The cover photo is also one I took in Vermont, of wild turkeys in a field against a brilliant backdrop.

I took this photo from a memorable visit to Vermont in the fall of 2018. We were hoping to visit again this year, but not sure if that will be possible.

A poem for a (sadly needed to be felled) Sugar Maple tree…the oldest and largest in New York State (Ontario NY) a few years ago, at 158 feet tall, canopy spread of 90 feet, and trunk diameter of 8 feet.

Mother Maple

Great mother of many
Near to four hundred years of age-
This regal Sugar Maple tree
must sadly see her end
by man and many chain saws.
She’s a mighty, mighty woman
Who gave and gave and gave!
‘Till now her limbs are falling, failing.

Now she gets notoriety-
A bitter sweet obituary,
sent through out the land.
She is a grand lady indeed!
Her stance and curves and nodules
are shoulders, hips, womb and breasts
for fascinated hands to touch
and finger trace-
For mortal eyes to behold in awe-
hiding places as familiar
as an old
grandmother’s bosom.

I see biscuits, ginger cookies
in her angles and protrusions-
in her aprons and huge pockets….
hiding life and sustenance
deep in her folds and pockets
‘neath the rustle of her canopy
Smiling in the morning, singing-
But how she can be deadly!

Her strength and girth has stood
against fire and brimstone seasons,
dry and thirsted sometimes-
Or near drowning in relentless rains.
Ice, hail and hellishness!
She was a safe and hiding place,
A keeper of secrets with Mother Earth
for four hundred years.
Saw the new and strange ones coming
with hopes and dreams,
with cruelties, greed
and dread disease.
She wept through slaughter of her Native friends….
Oh, if she could speak!

She saw my people running North
to freedom, heard their screams
Heard the baying hound dogs…
Who hid inside her massive arms?
Who rested, breathless at her feet?
Pray, she was not a lynching tree!
If millions of her leaves could tell
How lovers leaned against her, panting

How boys and girls climbed on her, laughing…
Who and what is buried in the soil
‘neath her reach!
This tree is a woman indeed
Sweet. Strong.Generous.
She seeded well the land.
Bless her
Remember her
Mighty, mighty
Mother Sugar Maple.

Brenda Cave James

Binghamton, NY

April 25, 2020

Maple leaves in Vermont. (My photo)

6 thoughts on “A Poem for Earth Day 2020: Mother Maple by Brenda Cave-James

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