Tipping Point

I don’t go into the woods today
where I once passed so many happy hours;
don’t deign to skip through forest glades
pausing to whisper love to trees and flowers.

I don’t walk under the avenue
of sturdy sycamores behind my home
instead I listen nervously 
as in the constant gales, they creak and groan

The trees still standing have reached breaking point
barrel-blasted by these manmade winds
they shake in root and leaf, in branch and joint
making us shun the last hope of mankind

We, like the trees, have now reached tipping point
we cannot breathe without them, even so
we cut them down, whereas we should appoint
guardians to protect, and hope to help them grow.

© 2022 experimentsinfiction.com. All Rights Reserved.

Written for earthweal

This week, Sherry challenges us to ‘speak for the trees, for the old-growth, for the beyond-human beings who live in the forest. Or speak as the trees, saying what you think they would like to be able to tell us.’

I had intended this as a nightmare vision of the future, but as I read through and edited this poem, I realised I am describing the situation as it is now. Neighbours complain that the trees are a threat to their homes. Many a night the oldest trees creak and groan in howling gales. I am afraid to walk in the woods after a storm. So we have a feedback loop, where the consequences of so much tree felling lead us to cut down what’s left for ‘safety’ reasons. It is a dire, urgent and current situation. I dedicate this poem to the guardians who put their lives and liberty on the line to protect our trees. Please read Sherry’s post to find out more about them.

This could be read as a companion piece to Bear Witness, written at the close of 2021.

31 thoughts on “Tipping Point

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  1. This is such a big problem here as well. People cut down leaning trees instead of bracing them out of fear they might fall one day. Which is much like cutting off one’s leg in case it might break one day. Sigh. And dead trees left standing provide habitat. Trees are really under threat and they are exactly what we and the planet need to counter carbon . Sigh. I love the rhyme scheme in your beautiful poem – and you are right – no longer dystopian, this is all happening now. Sooner than we expected. So glad you wrote for the challenge.

  2. We have that situation here too. Every year a few people hurt or even killed, houses and cars damaged, by falling trees or large branches. The ultimate answer, of course, is not to cut down all the trees–but how to remedy this human-created danger? (K)

  3. A family in town are trying to cut down several trees ” in case the pine cones fall and injure somebody.” Luckily the trees are under a protection order and the council says NO.

    On a plus side, a new neighbour had to remove a willow that was about to fall, and met great resistance in our suburb. The Tree Surgeons had to prove to other residents that the tree was indeed rotten!

  4. “Bear Witness” is a powerful poem; I only need read the first line and I remembered it. This one is a strong companion for that one. Both emotive and compelling. Well done, Ingrid.

  5. The howling of trees is a terrifying sound — in the past month, monster storms have ripped through Florida twice – there are those who are deeply panicked by the sound, placing a huge roaring question mark over the paradisal suburban Florida dream. Yes but that was then.

  6. Sorry your trees are in jeopardy, Ingrid. Sad to see the uprooted trees lying on the stone walls. Your poem is beautiful, poignant, and compelling!

    Since Hurricane Ian, we are still living among the wreckage of fallen trees. Timber Street, a small, oak-canopied street with no houses where I loved to walk, needs to be renamed. Some of the uprooted trees in the lot beside my house have started to sprout. What a mess! Maybe animals will find homes in the brush heaps.

    Yesterday morning, a poem about the environment woke me up, and I worked on it off and on all day. As I wrote, I thought of you and your support of environmental issues, and because it is a sonnet, I remembered with gratitude how you encouraged your readers to learn that form. Thank you. I will post that poem when I come back from break. <3

  7. The climate is making it difficult for trees to survive. Last year, there was a terrible storm here and many trees came tumbling down. One was massive destroying homes. Now, the town reviews which tree should be cut back or cut down. The sad thing is that the trees are homes to so many creatures it always hurts when one is cut down just in case.

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