I saw a perfect tree today by Lillian Allen

I saw a perfect tree today
From my cabin bed on a Via Rail train
Through the North of Ontario
I saw a perfect tree today
It was tall and thin and scraggly and prim
Then I saw another just as perfect
Short and sturdy with branches and brambles
And then another with a rugged fat trunk
Older than the rest, but just as perfect

I saw a dozen trees in a clump sharing the light
So their growth was stunted
But regal they were, plumped and perfect
And then a small twisted tree
with leaves fallen, trunk slanted
all the more perfect

I saw tens and hundreds, and thousands
And hundreds of thousands of trees
Not one single tree exactly like another
And yet they were all perfect, all perfect trees

A man-child from Mississauga heading to bend steel
To make his fortunes in the Alberta oil fields;
“I’ve never seen so many trees in my whole life”
A balding dude 30 years a social worker
Retiring home to Winnipeg, calms;
“Where I come from they cut them all down,
long, long, long before I was born.”
And I am reminded—This land, this land
Where cities have sprouted,
Blooming glistening skyscrapers at night
T’was all covered with trees once
One big forest we were once
All perfect trees.


Copyright © Lillian Allen. Originally published in Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (League of Canadian Poets, 2018).


Lillian Allen is a professor of creative writing at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD). Two time JUNO Award winner and trailblazer in the field of spoken word and dub poetry, Allen artistically explores the aesthetics of old and new sounds in music to create her distinctive leading edge brand of Canadian reggae with new world sounds in her poetry recordings, with her powerful reggae dub poetry/spoken word recordings including her latest single Woken & Unbroken (2018), album ANXIETY (2012), her groundbreaking first solo Juno awardwinning album Revolutionary Tea Party, a Ms. Magazine Landmark Album, followed by another Juno winner, Conditions Critical. Her third album, Freedom & Dance and her recording for children and young people, Nothing But a Hero, were released to critical acclaim. Find Lillian on Twitter at @LillianAllenDub.

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