Story of a Tree by Bruce Rice

After a triptych by Piet Mondrian

.                          A girl draws a lollipop tree
.                          a stick
.                                         green orbit above it
                        and two red apples — nothing’s

more basic. Then she adds branches
a bird with a beak
(the sun’s wearing glasses).

There’s a quarter-pie window
in a funny brick house, a chimney
that sprouts teal-coloured smoke like Grandmother’s hair.

.                          The tree grows some buttons
                        and a rough coat of bark.
.                          Next, leaves, on which caterpillars
                        (who also wear glasses)
                        dine. When leaves
                        are done being green
                        they thoughtfully drift
                        into piles on the ground.

Snowflakes stick to The Sky
while Dog With A Sweater
follows kids to the hill.

.                        Around eight o’clock, the boughs are reduced
                      to their lines. Scratches in the crayoned night sky reveal
                      three shifting stars and a galaxy much like our own.

After some travel, the tree becomes worldly,
a swirling blue cypress,
and the peaks of the houses turn into mountains.
A rise in the road sheens in the moonlight, and a girl
whose loosened mantilla shies from the bone,
grazing her skin from shoulder to neck,
hurries by argentine fields.

The fields disappear in the seasonal bending,
the landscape cools and concludes it is winter.

The mist becomes snow,
the kind that envelops like a form of suspicion.
Just enough light stumbles over a bough
to consecrate branches.


Should a traveler pass by there is nothing to see
and less to remember.

But the tree is still here. In essence.


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


Bruce Rice is the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate, an essayist and editor.  He has received the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetrry and two Saskatchewan Book Awards including the Poetry Award for The Trouble With Beauty (Coteau) and a Book of the Year nomination for Life in the Canopy (Radiant Press). His new collection, Human River: The Life and Photographs of Vivian Maier, is forthcoming from Radiant Press in 2020. Bruce been called “a master of light.” He writes about community and how we are transformed by landscape even as we leave our footprints on it.

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