In Langscape Magazine Articles

Apricot Tree

May 26, 2022
A poem that pays homage to trees as our Elders, life-givers, and first teachers.

Chang Liu (劉長亭)

apricot tree

A cluster of fruits on an apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca). Photo: Zeynel Cebeci (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Disciple-less,

you were dropping

bushels of unrecorded wisdom all over the sidewalk

in great pulpy explosions.

 

The owners were away for the summer — not to blame.

 

Years later, to my microphone

a shriveled Ngäbere healer in Costa Rica said he felt

like an ancient orange tree groaning under its last bumper crop,

full of sweetness that nobody cared

to gather and taste anymore

 

no apprentice had come to sit with him

in his twilight.

 

The young are forever leaving, and leave forever

— not to blame, not to blame.

But I remember,

my nose-tongue remembers

the desperately generous fragrance

of apricots filling my hot deserted Toronto street

 

and I wonder now whose teachings it was

that I gathered that summer,

washed

preserved and

savored through the longest winter.

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Apricot flowers in a green valley. Photo: Anna Maffi

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About the Poem

I was born in Montreal and now live in Toronto. I am a translator and a forest conservationist.

My parents immigrated to Canada from France and China at a time when dual ethnicity meant being half this, half that. People of mixed ancestry tend to discover early in life that identity is expansive and not necessarily dictated by place of birth. I believe that each person’s identity can expand to encompass the earth.

Each person’s identity can expand to encompass the earth.

In this poem, I savor the idea that trees embody the Indigenous principles of reverence, respect, and reciprocity. Trees are not merely photosynthesizers; that would be like saying that our mothers are merely oxygen breathers.

Trees are our Elders, the Rooted People who first made the earth habitable for us, the Walkers, we who appeared much later and whose every breath of oxygen is a gift from trees. Simply put, trees are the original Indigenous folk.

As is the Indigenous way, trees help us remember and honor our common mother. The real world is not the one that our minds create and manipulate — the real world is the one whose ancient roots reach deep into our hearts, a knowing beyond words.

The real world is the one in which we know intuitively that justice is a natural balance, not a man-made law; that equity is the fruit on the branch of sustainability; and that biocultural diversity is the polyphonic song that rises irrepressibly from our throats, even when we feel silenced.

Trees teach us how to grow leaves around our wounds, how to weave together the numberless flowers in our voices, and how to share the fruit that weighs sweet and heavy in our hearts.

Trees teach us how to grow leaves around our wounds, how to weave together the numberless flowers in our voices, and how to share the fruit that weighs sweet and heavy in our hearts.

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Chang Liu  is a translator in Toronto. His master’s thesis explored Indigenous languages in southern Costa Rica and the challenges facing aging curanderos (healers) in transmitting their knowledge to younger generations. Chang’s poetry has appeared in The Banyan Review (2020), Sky Island Journal (2018), and TOK Book 5 (Diaspora Dialogues, 2010).

 

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