Department header
Bewildering Stories

James Graham, Becoming a Tree


Becoming a Tree
Author: James Graham
Publisher: Troubador
Also: at Amazon
Length: 85 pages
ISBN: 978 1784625 443
Review: Alison McBain, Becoming a Tree

From the Author’s Note

I would hope that every poem in this book is from the heart. In this sense: that everything I have written about is what the Greek stoics called oikeion, ‘homely’, belonging to me, welcomed by me and given a place in my heart. Of course this includes the people I have loved. It includes also many people and areas of experience well beyond my own time and place.

Most of the poems at the beginning of the book are drawn out of memory - especially of my now distant childhood. Of these, the title poem ‘Becoming a Tree’ represents what seems to me the first time I allowed imagination to do its work.

We then begin to reach out into the world and into the past. I ‘become’, or try to become, the people who made the cave-paintings of Lascaux, people in the slums of the so-called ‘developing world’, the Chilean miners trapped underground. All these are oikeion, and I hope the reader will make them as welcome as I do.

From ‘Becoming a Tree’

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon,
that object he became...
— Walt Whitman

I nearly became a tree. Already a squirrel,
I scaled the beech I was most intimate with,
the one who had kindly grown a low fork,
and had said: ‘Sit here on my three-fingered hand,
and tell me what you have become’. I spread
my five-twigged hand, and fiercely dreamed...

From ‘The Book of Lascaux’

When we speak of them,we have to say
perhaps, or probably, or almost certainly.
But almost, almost certainly
they understood what we have called
acoustics. Painted their vibrant stags
and bison where the sound was good.
And the drums would beat, and the pulse
of the mountain would respond.
The hollow bones would bell and whinny
and the watchful stag and horse
would say they understood.
We try to read a wisdom
never meant for us...

From ‘Listening to Maria Callas’

My neighbour’s van growls by
with a stuttering crescendo and a long
diminuendo down the hill. Another snarl:
a rotary percussion drill, or something,
wakes like a serpent de profundis,
performs its ugly upward slur, and whines.
Enough. I power up
my gentle engine.
Track seven. Preset.
Strings whisper like blown grasses, then the first note
breaks like a morning sun through smokeless air...

Copyright © 2016 by James Graham

Home Page