“Ghost Tree,” a concrete visual poem by Tara Campbell

 

In
Muir
Woods
there are
redwood trees
that are completely
white, lacking all
chlorophyll. They’re called ghost trees, and they
dot the forest, ivory boughs
glowing against a background
of cinnamon bark and pine-needle green.
Because they don’t have chlorophyll these albino trees aren’t able to
photosynthesize. They can’t produce
their own food, relying instead on nutrients
from the redwoods around them, absorbed through
an underground network of roots and connective fungus.
Some call them vampire trees because they can’t survive without feeding off their neighbors.
But sample a vampire and here’s what you’ll find:
Cadmium
Nickel
Copper
Heavy metals in concentrations that would kill any other tree in the forest.
The ghost trees absorb         what others               can’t tolerate,
producing                   safer soil                     for all the rest.
       The other                            redwoods                            thrive
gratefully                                feeding                                    the ghosts
that keep                                            them                                       alive.

Tara Campbell (www.taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe’s Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.

Image: marketplace.secondlife.com

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