Literary Hook: ‘Before its time’: A thoughtful poem that works on two levels

Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

Here is a poem by Cleo Johnson, who is becoming a regular contributor to Literary Hook. This poem works on two levels, as you will see, and is a thoughtful rendering in direct address format.

Before its time

You planted all of our three backyard maple trees

Harvested them young from the back fence line every two years

Across from each other in the shape of a triangle

On three sides of the ancient ash right by the patio

Eight years ago we had the perfect storm,

Unusual conditions caused huge amounts of damage

Ripped out the second maple by the roots and

Left it lying just short of and facing the first one.

It broke your heart to have the tree tech cut it up

You were too sick to do it yourself

Your beautiful maple lying there with a bounty of limbs and leaves

No longer living, passing before its time.

The second tree, beautiful and full last year,

Barren of leaves this spring, was just taken away in pieces

It had started the spring with no buds, no leaves, bare bones

Limbs and trunk reaching for the sun, gone before its time.

The youngest is still with me, loaded with leaves

Hiding a cluster of scars on every limb

Could it be that your last tree is slowly dying,

Getting ready to go before its time, as you did?

Johnson, a lifelong resident of this area, reflects on the devastation nature can cause and the sorrow that comes with the end of life. She enjoys sharing thoughts and visions with other people.

Christine Swanberg has published about 300 poems in 70 journals and anthologies. An interview with her appears in the 2008 Poet’s Market. She is available for mentoring through Jane’s Stories Foundation. Part of her mentoring is suggesting possible journals. Her books include Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity (Wind Publishing, Kentucky), The Red Lacquer Room (Chiron Publishing, Kansas), The Tenderness of Memory (Plainview Press, Texas), Slow Miracle (Lakeshore Publishing, Illinois), Invisible String (Erie St., Illinois), Bread Upon the Waters (Windfall, Wisconsin) and Tonight on this Late Road (Erie St., IL). She teaches writing at The Clearing in Wisconsin.

From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue

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