Look at that tree, said Mimi, look at that tree and write about it.
But Mimi, I don’t know the name of that tree.
I can describe it but can’t distinguish it, tall, brown, bursting
with leaves like a loaded wallet,
autumn’s green and yellow receipts.
Mimi, is it against my nature to notice the tree, who am I
to rustle in the wind? Mimi, my best memory
of a tree is the one that grew at the back
of my mother’s garden, it might’ve been a young Oak
or a Sweetgum? My mother came back from the market with rope
and asked my father to tie it around the thickest arm,
the knot was the seat for my sister and I
so we could swing. Mimi, we sat on that knot and launched ourselves,
held our whole face and both arms and feet against it
and Tarzaned into the air. That branch held us all summer,
my parents months from their second separation,
my sister a year from running away from home, calling
the house, hanging up on mum’s new boyfriend.
When I finally answered, You know none of this is your fault?
I sat on the staircase with a rubber pad on the receiver so I could listen
through hearing aids, that one bit of her voice entered me
while I stared out the window at that tree.
See Mimi? I don’t know what I’m saying, I don’t know
what I’m hearing. I’m just rustling in the wind.
Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father, he is the author of ‘Shapes & Disfigurements’, ‘To Sweeten Bitter’ and ‘The Perseverance’. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. For more information, see his website.
Act Now: Join the struggle to protect ancient trees and woodlands by visiting one of the HS2 protest camps, making a donation to the HS2 Rebellion, or raising awareness through online actions. Click here to find out how.
Photo of Raymond Antrobus by Suki Dhanda