Brecht asked, how can I write about trees
in such terrible times as these?
Rich fired back her own review
of matters, and found nothing new.
The outcast suffered, the victim died,
the human dancing to its pride
still slouched across a field of bone.
I wonder, though, if trees atone
for suffering by being green,
offering what we leave unseen,
but what is still too real. In fact,
the tree’s intention fills the tract
for new crusades; the total war
may not be with our own. The score
is looming now, a planet bent
by our actions to be rent
of atmospheres, these toxic fumes
and deathly mixtures writhing plumes
that stomp the green earth to its knees–
and so I choose to write about trees.
Allan Johnston’s poems have appeared in over sixty journals, including Poetry, Poetry East, Rattle, and Rhino. He is the author of five poetry collections (most recently In a Window, Shanti Arts, 2018), and has received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, Pushcart Prize nominations, and First Prize in Poetry in the Outrider Press Literary Anthology competition. Originally from California, he now teaches writing and literature at Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago.