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The tale of the trees

Poem by Lynda La Rocca

Christmas – December 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

The week after Christmas, the streets are all lined

With unwanted Christmas trees piled side by side.

Each stripped of its popcorn, its cranberry chains,

Bereft of its tinsel and striped candy canes.

But when every family’s asleep for the night,

As summertime visions and sun shining bright

And dreams of the seaside all dance through their heads,

The cast-off trees rise from their cold, trash-lined beds

To tell their tree tales of how each was betrayed,

And left by the roadside to wither and fade

By the people they loved, who they trusted to keep

Them watered and warm, not tossed in a heap

With their limbs frozen white in the light of the moon.

When they longed so to stand in a warm living room.

As the trees huddled close, three companions arose

To recite three sad tales of post-Christmas tree woes.

The first tree to speak was a crusty old gent,

With a grizzled pine beard and a trunk slightly bent.

“My friends,” he intoned. “I was happy and free,

“Dwelling deep in the woods where no one could touch me.

“So I thought, ’til they found me and tore through my bark,

“And bound me and carried me off in the dark.

“I felt I was doomed when they took me inside

“Of a house filled with people. I wanted to hide.

“But then I was raised and stood proud on the floor,

“To be covered with glitter-glass, tinsel and more.

“The family shouted and all clapped their hands

“At the sight of me. I’ll admit, I was quite grand!

“They fed and admired me up to the day

“I was suddenly stripped clean and tossed right away,

“With never a glance or a word of good-bye.

“No one even noticed I’d started to cry.”

With that, the old tree heaved a sigh and lay back.

A second tree rose up, whose trunk was all black,

Whose limbs drooped with sadness and longing for those

Who’d crowned him with ornaments, candy and bows.

“I stood with the Christ child asleep at my feet,

“And guarded His slumber. And oh! What a treat

“To shade all the figures who made up that scene;

“To gaze upon them was like living a dream.

“But then I was taken away from the thing

“That gave me my joy, made my heart swell and sing.

“I thought I would always watch over my brood,

“The Child and His angels. Instead, I was used.”

He fell silent then, and the youngest tree spoke.

Her tale was so touching, tree hearts almost broke.

“I stood,” she recalled, “in the room of a boy

“Whose legs had been hurt and whose heart felt no joy

“Until I was brought to his room in the night,

“All dressed in my toys and my gay, twinkling lights.

“This little boy loved me so, he could not bear

“To take his eyes from me, to go anywhere

“Too far from my sight. When they took me away,

“I could hear the boy calling for me all that day.”

The Christmas trees snuffled and bowed their tree heads

For the boy and the Christ child and tears that were shed.

Then what looked like a star far above softly sighed,

“I have heard your sad stories and long have I cried.”

It descended among them, with eyes shining bright,

Saying, “No star am I, but a spirit of light

“Who pities you so, I will help you return

“To wherever you wish, for my succor you’ve earned

“Through your suffering. Now who will first test my pledge?”

All the trees gathered close to her blue mantle’s edge,

And each told their wish; to be granted a way

To return to their roots, greet the springtime’s first day.

Next morning, the townsfolk all ventured outside,

They each looked about, then they gasped and they cried,

“See there! That old tree’s standing quite tall and straight.

“The middle tree’s guarding the churchyard’s front gate.

“The youngest tree stands at the boy’s windowsill.”

(And from what I’ve been told, she is standing there still.)

Then at last all the families, ashamed of the way

They’d deserted the trees that brought joy Christmas Day,

Remembered the spirit of peace and thanksgiving,

Which bids them treat kindly all things that are living.

Then true Christmas joy started showering down

On grown-ups and children throughout the whole town.

They knelt by their trees and they each spoke a vow,

A promise good then, one that still holds them now.

The townspeople never would chop their tree friends,

Just to toss them away at the holiday’s end.

Root and tree would be carried home, tended with care,

Replanted each springtime; this way all would share

In gladness that lingers through each season’s passing:

God’s love would now dwell in their hearts, everlasting.

Lynda LaRocca lives and writes, and sometimes even plants trees, near Leadville.