Poetry: Bare Trees by Christopher Johnson
Bare trees stand like black cadavers outside my window in the darkest dreariest days of
March in Chicago.
A whole row of ‘em, without hope, with tangled teasing tumescent limbs and branches
pointing everywhichway without insane order,
Creating a beauty-reft thick dense woods of lingering resentments and busted hopes and
The trunks of the bare naked trees as black as night, black as diamonds, stark, relentless,
absorbing sunlight and never freeing it.
The limbs of the despairing trees soar leafless and naked toward the distant sky leaden
with drooping clouds—
Clouds like clumps of iron ore floating in the fruitless sky,
Clouds that weigh me down like empty gestures and silent remonstrances,
Limbs that follow their own crazy-angled gaze to touch the bleak steel sky,
Which has its god-forsaken secrets,
Which looks down upon us and laughs.
Oh, bare trees, an empty ode to you as you hide your laughs and grin at our expense
As you stand there on the other side of my jagged window and read me,
The way that nature mocks us for our futile gestures and our insane hopes.
Good God, I need someone to blab to and avoid the insanity of these bare naked trees
staring relentlessly at me,
Seeing into me, seeing through me, sizing me up, giggling at my expense.
Will we ever escape from the soggy morass of March,
Which clings to us like ugly spears stuck in all-encompassing ugliness?
Age oppresses me, weighs me down, the world continuing without me,
And me, unable to escape the incessant, accusing stares of the bare trees standing in their
On the other side of my jagged crooked window.
Christopher Johnson is a writer based in the Chicago area. He’s done a lot of different stuff in his life. He has been a merchant seaman, a high school English teacher, a corporate communications writer, a textbook editor, an educational consultant, and a free-lance writer. He’s published short stories, articles, and essays in The Progressive, Snowy Egret, Earth Island Journal, Chicago Wilderness, American Forests, Chicago Life, Across the Margin, Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, Spillwords Press, Fiction on the Web, Sweet Tree Review, and other journals and magazines. In 2006, the University of New Hampshire Press published his first book, This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. His second book, which he co-authored with a prominent New Hampshire forester named David Govatski, was Forests for the People: The Story of America’s Eastern National Forests, published by Island Press in 2013.