ODE TO THE SCALE ARMOURED PINE

ODE TO THE SCALE ARMOURED PINE (1)

Once upon a time
brave warriors of peace
who made a vow
and withdrew up our mountains
on guard duty over the clouds.
Then,
turned into trees,
they chose with courage
to die standing
and so remaining
always among the living
without the glory
of victory
or of death in battle.

Clinging to
rock faces
or spread
among perched blocks
of the plateaus,
they pledged
to the rain
part of the land
jealously guarded
at their feet.
They gave
to the wind
silver needles
as a war chest.
They sacrificed
to the tyrannical bolts
the most beautiful branches
and sometimes
their treetops too.
Time and frost
finally paid
with their own armour
yielding each scale
as a legacy
of ancient coins.

Thus,
still today
in the starry nights
ivory trees
deceive eternity
with the complicity
of the moon.
_________
(1) This particular kind of Pine lives in the National Park of Pollino, between Calabria and Basilicata, and in some regions of the Balkans. Its name refers to the bark made by scales which recalls the Roman soldiers’ armour. The wood is particularly resinous and allows the tree to stand still, as if it were crystallized or fossilised after its vegetal life.

(translated by Giuseppe Villella)

from “To The South of Things” - Thunder Bay, 2013

To The South of Things