“Po' Tree!” by Julie Patton

A black man uttered d’udder day…

Yea, beneath day

Bereav’d of light

Both ’peared almost night.


He splithered and splattered like a


Duck—a drunk

Bird dance, Sing!

On a brass sea sassy

C B D-DO-B D Bop Bam!

Truth trippin’ on a typewriter po—o

etic justice

Resounding branch of a cocabola

Tree splintering

into two

front teef

Beat yo’ drumsticks and sing!

Po tree,

He be…mused like music

Rappers recitin’ Blake,

“Dese black bodies dis sunburnt face

Tis but a cloud like a shady grove”

Po’ tree,” he said

To me, reading

Leaves from


White pulp of



Lips drooping with

The roots of speech

Twiggs leves blosmes floures

Etrange frute

Hanging from Imperial

Is ‘ems populous routes

Olde english thought stems

Smoothly articulated limps

What trees would have done with hands

Reach, reach

For an even loftier expression

The Tarzan cry-y-y-y-y-y-y-y

In the dark

Jumble of un-

Tamed and tethered


Too black words

You ’sposed to swing from

Duh bulging O’s loose vowels

Twist’d mouths


O dark continents

Swingin’ in a southern breeze

Hear the frute o’ po’

Tongue-tied roots

You ax d’ uh (unh hunh), re-place the

The Wit duh…a

Febyll tre that falleth at the fyrst strok!

Cypresses wthoute dignitee, syck

a more

Scent of magnolia

Dutch elm disease…

I beshout’d at him a treatise

On dead and dying leaves

Po’ tree you can gnaw on till

The sap oozes, runs like blood

Po ol’ tre, he said southern style please

Wind gatherin from m’ paper sleeves

Cruel soliloquies of this

Pastoral scene

Whence came haunting

Song—cane thrashing back

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Way down yonder by the po’

Po tree where

Weepin’ widows ’neath spanish moss

Still pines away scarred human cross

Forced sentences

Dark subjects

Unable to read


Ol’ tomatums

Pre fix’d at breakneck speed by a

Poplar’s demand

Black byrds wither round ‘n’ wilt


What hands have done with trees, the

Threatening white sheets

Singe thin, ash dun shins

O dark

Tendril’d limbs

Blotted like ink

I had the impression of running,

Running down limb skin’d tree

Blood on the leaves, blood at the root

O leaf fall of scattered fingertips

Pressed for words they’ll…

Shoot you like a mockingbird

See what they do to thee—damn!

Po’ trees must do with hands for

This book open wound

Word become flesh

Beaten to pulp

Dried and pressed

For the rain to gather

Wind to suck

Lorde, Lorca, Dumas

Hak Kyung Cha!

Heads swirlin’ in

A paper breeze

Eyes weep fo’ dese

Death sentences read

Poet trees mutilated

Out of breath…

“For the wind was changing notes as it went through the branches

I imagined this was music, was surprised to hear someone

calling my name. Fe…de…ri…co…it seemed to be saying.

I listened for a long while and realized that the branches of an

old poplar were rubbing sadly and monotonously in the wind.”

See, hear! who be

done beat this ’ere

Strange ’n’ bitter crop

O what’s poplar

Not popular I said

Still never lifting my

10 volume head

Read the fresh way

That tree’s leaves

have of stirring the

wind makes it

sound so much like

running water—

Po’ trees a babblin’

Brook I spat

Watching the maenads tear

Orpheus apart

Bulging eyes, twisted mouth

Still singing

His head washes ashore

Tarred and feathered, neck

Twisted unloose

For the sun to rot, crows to pluck

They’ll make a noose of






Piercing tongues like

Birds mocking birds

“Potree-ee, po’ tree, po’ et’ tree!”

Blood on the leaves, blood at the roots


Foul play that bleeds

Skinned, headless, plucked

10 cents a breast and a wing

Beat yo’ drumsticks and sing