Editor’s Note: “Poems to Listen By” is an audio series where, over time, we will explore some of the themes in the Poet Laura checklist, as well as Tweetspeak’s “Year of Wisdom” theme throughout 2020.
Poems to Listen By: Sharing the Canopy: 8 Ways Trees Embody Our Stories—The Maples of Dachau. Presented by Laurie Klein
From their stalwart trunks to tapering limbs, trees, and tree poems, may sober us as well as model hope. In the skeletonized leaves of winter we glimpse an alternative, darker “understory”; it’s hard to imagine anything so frayed and brittle once pulsed with life.
Over time, trees—like humans—may weather extreme shocks, often fighting for life. They show us how to survive amid deprivation.
In my poem “The Maples of Dachau,” the speaker summons a “War Story” yet to be told.
The Maples of Dachau
First, there were songbirds I couldn’t
believe, then, those photographs—
shins like matchsticks, the ember-ed
eyes. How grateful they were to simply
lie still. In the typhus hut,
a survivor later wrote,
wooden-spoon men would nest,
safe in the warmth of each other’s need.
I thought of a soldier I never
saluted—my father, who never mentioned
war. He folded our flag the way some
tuck an ailing child into bed. Tender as April.
What if my dad was somebody’s
hero? I imagine a Dachau maple seed,
placed under my pillow, and I dream
him young, in uniform, all nose and legs,
walking my way beneath tall trees.
Who do you need to imagine walking your way? I hope you’ll daydream about it; perhaps, even write about it . . .
Photo by けんたま/KENTAMA, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Poems used with permission. Audio and script by Laurie Klein with thanks to Pat Stien for direction and Bill Klein for engineering and music from his solo album, “Lauda.”
Klein, Laurie, “The Maples of Dachau,” first published in Jewish Currents.