573: Bury Me in the Woods of My Childhood

573: Bury Me in the Woods of My Childhood

573: Bury Me in the Woods of My Childhood


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I’ve recently written a very long prose piece about trees. I just kept writing about them and it seemed to go on forever. My love of trees, my memory of trees, the way they feel like family members, ancestors, markers of time, ways of healing, ways of breathing. The only issue with the essay, really, is that I don’t know how to end it. Because if you’re writing about trees, the subject is endless.

I’m part of a small group of writers that meets and talks about our prose writing and they had to listen to me read my piece on trees for months. While everyone else would move on to their new smart essays, I’d say, “Well, here is more about trees.” And that was it, just more about trees. I couldn’t stop. Finally, I think, it might be done. But the only way I could finish it was to admit that it could go on forever.

When I told my producer, Jennifer, about this project of mine, she brightened over our Zoom screen and her first response was, “Do you ever wonder what makes a tree happy?” And this is why we get along. Come for the poetry, stay for the trees.

In today’s poem, we see someone with a similar deep connection to a tree. I love the tenderness felt for the tree, and I love the question of whether or not that tree feels a tenderness too.

Bury Me in the Woods of My Childhood
by Erin Rodoni

As a child I pledged myself to a tree,
a walnut in the backyard I called mine,

my tree, though it wasn’t
as presumptuous as it sounds.

It was just I didn’t know a word
for what I felt for the tree

and there was no word for whatever it felt
for me, the girl who grazed her knees

daily on its silver bark. The girl who hugged
with her whole body, who closed her eyes

and listened to the humming of leaf and limb,
the aura of insect and birdchatter in its crown,

my private galaxy of sound.
Against my cheek, my tree was comfort

to the small muscles in my jaw,
forever smoothing the world

into something I could stomach. Theirs is 
a slow time, of creaks and groans and sways,

and when I lived there I was slow too. I remained
a girl, though I grew older, long-

limbed and limber, my weight feline
in its languor. How I loved the leaves where coolness

lingered as sun lit up the veins inside, and I pressed
my palm against one as if it were a hand, as if to say

There is something now between us, my own ancient.
I was alive. I was in time, drifting as I was the afternoon

entire, cradled but not sleeping, rocking but not
a single bough breaking, not a crack. So awfully

tender, so full of sap. I wonder if the tree
remembers me. I wonder if it asks where

I have gone, and the network of fungi beneath 
my feet lights up with my footsteps, relaying

with the symmetry of synapse: She is here.
She grows heavy, then light again.

"Bury Me In the Woods of My Childhood" by Erin Rodoni, from AND IF THE WOODS CARRY YOU by Erin Rodoni, copyright © 2021. Used by permission of Southern Indiana Review Press.