NaPoWriMo Entry #1: “The Tree of Knowledge”

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Before I get to the poem, I thought you all should see what inspired me to write what follows.  The following images are of the same tree, though not the tree that originally inspired me, as I did not have my camera with me while I was on campus.  In any case, I hope the images inspire you too (if not, then that’s your problem, meanie)!

The Tree of Knowledge (also known as Loopsy)
This is like something out of a weird Little Nemo dream.
The Tree of Knowledge
The tree of knowledge spells its name in permafrost
moss dangles from its limbs like frayed fingers framed 
by the edges of a memory of another age,
of smoke tendrils reaching to the earth to twist 
into the fog from which the sweet dew of life
chimes a tune for which only the sun will rise.
What name does the wintry skeleton give itself
as it bends — crick, crack — with the wind
to track its tired oaken digits in the snow?
Can anyone read its name — of whispers and salt —
if nobody is around to see the letters?
In whose language does the tree of knowledge speak?
If not our own, then the traces of a tree thought
must be found on the pages of our books,
like subconscious — subliminal — metaphors
to be teased from the edges of our collections;
nobody will read the tattered adventures of pulp pap
for the one hundred years to come — or fifty.
But tree language is a permanent marker
beneath the layers of pulp upon which
the author pens his name in far too many words.
If we could reverse engineer the page,
perhaps we could rediscover the sacrificial lamb
whose voice — chop, crash — we cannot hear.
Perhaps, too, the tree of knowledge could tell us
what the Woolly Mammoth calls itself 
from the depths of so many ACGT repetitions 
archived in the permafrost cover of gnarled roots.
Perhaps humanity is but a prolongated process of return:
to ourselves, to the beings we were meant to be,
to the thought bubbles we actually are, archived, too, 
in the sap stream memories of the grove.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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