Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



The Difference Between a Palm and Me

Would the palm tree prefer to scurry out of the way of the wind?
Is it irritated when the wind shakes its curving fronds?
Or is it pleasant, like a massage perhaps? If it had a mouth
would it scream at the bullying? Or soften and moan?
If it had hands, would it scrawl a poem or pen a protest
to tell the world that 'something must be done about this...'

The palm's fronds arc like a frozen fountain, they're so green
in the Mediterranean sunlight with the blue sky behind them.
It has, let's count, fifteen of these fronds, maybe sixteen.
It's a very palmy palm. It is, indeed, the epitome of palms.
If there was a competition for palms it would win hands down.
Or so I think. And that's the difference between the palm and me.

But I'll run out of thinking. When all the electric pulses fade
inside me and all their connections are bare wires hanging loose,
when all the paintings are taken down, the furniture carted away,
the walls cracking and floors collapsing in a shower of debris,
the palm will still go on growing, pushing roots into the earth,
pushing fronds into the sky, doing what it has to do, no more, no less.

Yet there must have once been a time when we also survived
and thrived on our senses, responding purely to natural
forces and the urging of our genes, without thoughts butting in,
sundering, cleaving, splitting us. Now we can no longer just be.
And when thoughts fail we find ourselves falling into an empty
space, a void, like a descending meteor breaking up as it burns.

Looking up, I can see two yellow butterflies circling the sky.
They're like a couple doing a rock n' roll dance, whirling apart
then flung together, twisting and jiving, and they look perfect
for each other and perfect as butterflies, perfect unbroken wings,
full vivid colour, no feeling they'd rather not be a butterfly today.
They are flawless. Yellow butterflies. Green palm. And then, me.


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