That is what they told me as I strolled through
their territory. They said you can cut us all down
but our roots will find a way over or under
other roots. They say look at how we shield
the thinnest branches and the softest leaves
without telling how or where to grow.
We house birds of all kinds no matter
how they live or what they believe.
We don’t ask for love from mice
or loyalty from snakes. We have not created
by-laws here, demanding that neighbours sign
before entering. We don’t judge. When something
invades our sky and we cannot reach the light
we grow in a different direction.
They ask me to look at my own ancestors
for the proof, put your gears in reverse and look
at where you came from as you ventured slowly
out of the ocean with new found legs looking
for something to eat. Then look at the first mother
and the first father how they laughed and how they cried
never questioning the authenticity of their tears.
Look at you they say. Look at how you survived
your first breath, learned how to walk, how to speak,
how to hold the next generation inside
until they are ready to be born.
All we ask is that you remember these thoughts
when you are locked in a concrete cell
when you are tortured by your own confessions
or sent back to the sea in a coffin.
The heart knows who you are
and will be with you until you die.
Copyright © Janet Vickers. Originally published in Infinite Power (Ekstasis Editions, 2016).
Janet Vickers‘ poems have appeared in anthologies in Canada (Down in the Valley, Ekstasis 2004) and the UK (Refugees Welcome and The Poet’s Quest for God, Eyewear 2016), in literary journals and online magazines. She has been a full member of the League of Canadian Poets since 2011 and served as the BC/Yukon Rep from 2011-13. She currently lives on Gabriola Island, BC with her husband Tony.