16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 6
The painting above is by a fabulous artist called Fran Riley. It hangs in my living room to remind me what I know.
Poets have always turned to myth and stories to talk about trauma and violence. The figure of the woodcutter – just the word ‘woodcutter’ and the word ‘forest’ and all the old childhood stories are summoned from their resting places.
When a poem settles down on its hunches and the poet comes from out of the shadows and says something like ‘Listen’ or ‘I can tell you’ or ‘Let me tell you’ or ‘The story goes’ it can feel like they are with you in the room whilst you’re reading.
One of my favourite poems which does this is by the poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly. The poem is called Song. Listen, the poet says. This poem is also about knowing. Who knows, and who doesn’t. Not only who knows, but what they know. The type of knowing.
I read an article that told me that trees warn each other when there is danger. That they communicate through an intertwined and complicated root system. That if one tree is failing in a forest, other trees will divert resources to it to help it.
This poem is about a moment of knowing, of understanding, a moment of change, a moment of knowing. Although it is hidden amongst trees, and behind figures of woodcutters, and clever ravens, and throats, and light coming and going from the room as if it was a person.
The story goes that the light slipped past/and entered the
room like a shout/he stood over me/a woodcutter entered
the forest/and the trees began to warn each other/it was
July or maybe June/the knowing settled at my throat/a
clever raven/it never left/does not believe in trees or
flying/the light slipping past/it is sometimes painful/to have
a knowing at your throat/that clever raven/but better than
the alternative/something small and bruised/the raven
knows most things/it remembers nothing/this is really
about the trees/which saw it all