“Her Poem, the Oak Tree” by Tammi Truax
I have carried this poem for centuries. In the end I shall bury it under an oak tree still in the prime of life, assuming life shall attend that symbolic celebration, and that I remember to bring a trowel.
The many oak trees in my childhood yard were my playmates. I had no grandfathers, but those big daddies stood sentinel over me daily. I played in their shade, and played with their babies – the acorns that littered the lawn by the thousands. In the fall, after the most magical kaleidoscope of colors ever a child could ask for, I’d play in the dying leaves that littered the lawn by the millions. Twigs and sticks were toys too, or weapons, as needed. There was one tree that had been cut to a high slanted stump and I thought it my princess seat. Before my childhood was over a boy I loved would kiss me as I sat upon my throne. My attachment to the yard was greater than to the house upon it. I miss the land, and the oaks.
I did not know how to choose a husband. Girls are not well schooled in this important skill. Many years after the fact I realized that I chose mine, though I’d seen his hard ways, because he seemed like a tall mighty oak nothing could ever bend or break. That was before I knew what cancer can do.
For years I had a cross-temporal affair with another man. Like my husband, also dead, though famous. He was known as General George Washington. I’d learned a lot by then about how to see the real strengths and weaknesses of a man, much as I had better learned to see my own. Humans have so many more flaws than trees do. I went to George’s home to gather what I needed, to write what I must write. I prayed over the unmarked graves of his slaves. I gathered acorns under his massive oaks and brought them home. I cherish them, though I could not bring myself to plant them.
It is the present. I’ve moved to a cottage in Maine. The babies are gone, my pockets nearly empty. I’ve no office anymore so must write in the kitchen. With the last of my money I splurged on a special table. One that would support and inspire me. Where I can sit quietly and see the trees outside. Where I can write what I must write. She is old and purposeful. She is scarred and beautiful. She is, I can see, full of stories, like me. She is solid oak.
This is the future, so all is phantom. But I believe I will slam my fist upon the table, and cry “Ecstasy!” Then I will sail to a place where I’ll see the waves rippling peacefully in the moonlight.
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Tammi Truax Artist Statement:
During the Waves Discussion at the 2015 retreat someone spoke of writing Woolfishly and asked “What story is your internal tree telling you?” Maxine Hong Kingston’s mention of incarnations also planted something in me. This lyric essay sprouted.
Tammi graduated from the University of New Hampshire and spent
her first twenty professional years working with children and families,
specializing in literacy. She lived and worked in New Hampshire, Maine
and Germany, and taught from the preschool to the college level. She also
had two children of her own. It was when her husband died and she
became a single mother that she chose to pursue a writing career.
Children’s literature is a lifelong passion and she has several picture books
ready for a publisher. Most recently she was editor of a new release of Lady
Wentworth; A Poet’s Tale by Henry Longfellow (illustrated) (Bookbaby,
2013), and released her debut novel Broken Buckets, as an eBook. She is a
published poet in four anthologies, including The Widows’ Handbook: Poetic
Reflections on Grief and Survival, Edited by J. Lapidus and L. Menn, with a
forward by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Kent State
University Press, 2014), and has a short story in an anthology called
Compass Points (Piscataqua Press, 2015). Her work can be found in several
journals, magazines, and online including at The Huffington Post. In 2014
she was the first winner of The Provence Prize for creative short fiction,
and in 2013 and 2015 was selected to be one of the writers at A Room of
Her Own Foundation’s retreat in New Mexico. In 2015 and 2016 Tammi
was awarded the Buffler Poetry Residency at Portsmouth (NH) High
School. She was also chosen last year to attend Vermont’s When Words
Count writing retreat. Tammi is a member of many writing and historical
associations. She writes from her home in Maine, and is seeking
representation for her historical novel.