What have we, trees seen?

Guardians and life-givers all,

we have watched in silent protest, grief-stricken

as you have pillaged Mother Earth.


What have we, trees seen?

Slate, iron, stone, brick and – oh! โ€“ wood,

hewed and nailed and screwed to the ground

in a parody of permanence.


What have we, trees seen?

Hazel and oak and larch and ash, weep

in mute despair whilst you burn, baby, burn,

stealing the essence of life.


What have we, trees seen?

Your demands for more overwhelm us,

we mourn as silent sentinels, watching

death dog your footsteps.


What do we, trees see?

We see that you are gone.



This week, on dVerse Poetics, Abhra has asked to write poetry on trees – not just about trees, but maybe as a tree. What do trees, think and feel, how do they talk? In my dystopian-diverted mind, I think they’re pretty hacked off with us right now, as we squander all that we have, as if we can just pop across to the next planet once we’ve finished with this one.

Today, I’ve been on quite a long road-trip from mid-Wales to the southern end of the country, and then back again. The journey encompassed villages called Bethlehem and Salem within a few miles of each other (not a joke!), and Port Talbot which is shrouded in steam and from its huge steel plant and smells very industrial (but has a strange beauty that a city-born girl like me can appreciate). I have seen much that is wonderful and worrying about our use of the land in just one day, so I imagine that trees, who can live for hundreds of years, are shaking their heads and wondering when we will learn.

I hope you enjoy my piece – please do visit dVerse to read more wonderful imaginings!



40 thoughts on “Heartwood

  1. Oh, trees have seen so much and have continued to remain silent. They undoubtedly, in their wisdom, are saddened. If only they could speak. If only we would listen.

  2. I can see the Welsh inspiration in your words here. Hope you enjoyed Southern Wales. I did.
    Powerful ending, Freya! We are in fact acting as if we were eternal while the trees might still be there mourning centuries after we have brought destruction upon ourselves.

    1. Yes, it was an interesting day! I prefer the landscapes of mid-Wales though – the scenery is more rugged.

      Indeed. We are treating the world as if whatever we do, it will all be OK…

  3. oh i bet the demands for more overwhelm them…its sad how many trees are cut down to build new houses while there are still houses sitting vacant…i would be hacked off myself about that…if we take we should replace…and think to the future as well…

  4. I did enjoy your piece. It’s a good commentary on our blindness. It’s sad to think that trees are angry with us, but who can blame them?

  5. Lovely poem Freya, the trees have seen so much, probably good they can’t speak as i imagine they would give us a right royal rollicking over our treatment of the earth.

  6. These lines are especially fantastic – “Your demands for more overwhelm us,
    we mourn as silent sentinels, watching
    death dog your footsteps.”
    Wonderful response to the prompt.

  7. ” a parody of permanence.”..that’s exactly what trees would have told us had they the power of speech about our activities….a thought provoking piece…

  8. It’s not the harvesting of wood that I resent, it’s the use of it as fuel, and the burning of it for clearing up. And of course, the needless felling in large quantities.
    I feel bonfires, either old garden wood or in the hearth, are in themselves a dangerous horror. It is like smoking twenty cigarettes per hour. I have slowly managed to get most of our village to take their garden refuse to the green dump rather than robbing each other of oxygen and loading our airspace with carcinogens.
    But that is a different rant – sorry ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes, indeed. Managed forests and sustainable wood are OK, as long as they are managed properly. Burning wood – not so much, not at all! Well done on your persistence, I am very impressed!

  9. A lovely contrast between the calm permanence of trees and the hasty, greedy ‘more, more’ bustling of humans.
    Was just wondering if the comma between us and trees is necessary at the start of each stanza? Grammatically, you don’t need it, but if you want to have it there to mark a pause, drawing breath, something like that, then maybe just a space, a gap would be better. (Sorry, old English teacher in me is coming to the fore here…).

  10. Freya, really enjoyed this poem, the refrain worked really well and the ending was perfect! Thank you for the visit to my blog ๐Ÿ™‚

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