The Listening Tree (excerpt)
There is a great oak tree in the Western field. It has been winter for so long now, I can’t remember when it last had leaves, but I love it best as it is now- its branches twisting around in a thousand patterns. I lie beneath it and look up into them. I can feel the shadows licking along my skin. It is invincible, the oak. It has been here longer than anything. It was a long time, I cannot know just how long, before I realized its magic. I think the first time was an accident. In celebration of a newly discovered object, I came to the tree. I wanted to share my object and the stars would not rise for some time. The object was simple: a flat, round plate of metal with two half-moon punctures toward the center. The metal was wrinkled like old leather, rusted into an soft ombre. I leaned it against the trunk of the tree. I curled myself up next to it, placing my cheek against the cool surface of my object and reaching my arm out across the tree’s endless skin. Some kind of warm pleasure crept up through my body. I arched my back and leaned in further, pressing myself harder against my object and the tree. The bark pressed through my clothing in a rippling touch. I turned myself slowly so my breasts pushed against the tree, my cheek still flat against my object. I pulled myself slowly up the rise of the trunk, my object sliding between us, guarding my bare cheek from the accidental harshness of oak skin, until I was standing. I pressed my palms flat against the tree and curled my toes into the curved ground of roots. I shifted slightly and my object slid into a circular indentation in the trunk of the oak- an ancient scar where perhaps once there had been a branch. My head tilted in with it and I began to hear something- a pulse, a rhythmic, low beating. I could not help but groan with the pleasure of that sound. It is so quiet here. Besides the wind through the pines and myself, what is there to make a sound? But there it was, sure and true.
There was more, something high and sweet underneath the pulse, something else scraping in between, another something like a pure bell holding its tone infinitely. I felt less alone then than I had. The stars are so distant and they rarely show themselves in the daytime. The objects tell me of themselves in their tricky way, but they do not care for me as I do for them. All these things point to her and she is the closest to me of anything I have ever known, but I cannot know if she is another invention of my own making, simply a reflection of myself drawn out of my desire for anything that is like me.