Tree of Forgive by Christina Frei

Tree of Forgive

by Christina Frei

I planted a pine tree on my mother’s body, decorated
it with her criticisms, reminders and entreaties
all written on bits of paper that dangled like pine cones
from the tips of its branches: “Can’t you just once
in your life take responsibility?” “You look like a hooker!”
“How dare you talk back to me!” Owls would roost
there, and squirrels raced past each other up and down
the rough bark, scolding if I came too close. So,
I let it grow wild, never trimmed its branches,
nor swept up the needles that fell copiously to the ground
like rusty fur. My mother’s words too became tattered
and faded as they made their way up the trunk
higher and higher as the tree stretched skyward,
so I could barely make out the white fluttering shapes.
The more years went by, the more bristling,
crooked, and gnarled it became. It was even a bit stooped
at the top and at night I would hear it bend
and groan, mornings breathe in its sharp clean scent.
One November there was a terrible storm,
the tree cracked to its core, topmost branches crashing
to the ground where I found them the next day broken,
motionless like corpses. I gathered up all the shriveled
slips of paper in my arthritic fingers, put on my bifocals
and looked at the barely legible words I didn’t recall
writing: “I was afraid to show affection!”, “Forgive me!”,
and: ”Look at that moon! Did you ever see so many stars?”


Christina Frei grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and has lived in Toronto, Dakar, Amsterdam, and Montreal. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and she has been nominated for Best of the Net 2013, three Pushcart Prizes, and a Best New Poets award.

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