The Wishing Tree

There was a tree in my back-yard

I used to call it the Wishing Tree;

It had wishes hanging from its branches like stars

And embedded in its leaves.

People would come to this tree,

Even though they didn’t know it was meant for wishing;

And they’d look at it and tell me,

What a nice tree you have planted.

I’d nod my head and say thanks,

Because the tree hadn’t been there years prior;

Even though it was more ancient than anything

That I’ve ever seen before.

It had just shown up there one day,

As if it has always been standing;

And I don’t know, maybe it has been,

And the only problem is in my memory.

I like to imagine it’s always been watching

And listening to my heart;

But with time I realized it was a tree, after all,

And in my wishing it had no part.

The cats used to leave mice at its feet,

And the crows would bring it shiny coins;

But then the rain started falling,

So I built under it a small wishing point.

It was made of wood painted red, 

Which was the only wood that I had;

And behind the small doorway I put a cushion,

Which I’d wash with every change of the month.

The cats brought more mice, the crows gave their treasures

And soon enough, there was no more space in the altar.

So I built a few more, and they scattered around the tree;

At night, I sometimes saw mushrooms come to visit it.

They would offer shade, and under the shade there were the stars;

They twinkled like wishes, 

But vanished as soon as the sun stepped out.

And so did the mushrooms, because they said they didn’t belong

They only came to offer their wishing

To the tree that has left their own home.

What kind of tree used he be, I often liked to ask—

And they’d tell me all sorts of fairytales, 

About a tree kind of heart.

And why has he left; had you no place for kind hearts?

The mushrooms only shook their heads and bowed,

And vanished with the night.

Sometimes, when the moon was a certain shape of crescent,

There would come foxes to the tree;

They nestled in its crevices

And they stored in it their memories.

The foxes were fickle, they said when I asked;

They weren’t sure how to tell the difference

Between the tales of the day and those of the night.

So they came to the tree and the tree offered its safety

No shadow ever came with it, so in it—

Were stored all sorts of secrets, and the things close to heart;

A mouse once told me he’s given it his best wishes,

Just in case they might get lost.

I, as well, my best wishes tried to give;

But the wishes that I had were faint and tainting.

So instead of the wishes I watered its roots

And when spring came and the flowers bloomed—

I collected the fallen fruit.

They tasted much like strawberries, so I made them into jam

And at the foot of summer I’d put them into jars

A seal I planted, and a ribbon I tied;

Then I headed on the road, for weeks at a time.

The jam sold well no matter wherever I’d gone,

And by the time I’ve come home, all would be covered with snow.

The kids have taken care of the altars

Though I’d never told them they were there;

And the local cats have fended the night away

Though I’ve never asked them to keep it safe.

We’re glad of your return, they told me when I came;

We’ve been hoping for a stripe of fish, if you may.

I’d laugh and I’d give them a fish from the pond

And the next summer, they, once again, by the tree would stand tall.

The days passed like moments, and the moments as years

And there came a morning, with the birds softly chirping;

It was a quiet morning, and I had to go,

But before I did, I took care of the fort;

The cushions I washed, and jars of jam I left at the altars

With their lids off, so the coming could reach to have them.

And when I left, the door I closed behind

And the Wishing Tree, he told me, he told me it would be fine.

I chose to believe him, because he was a tree after all—

And I nodded my head and I sang him a song.

I would watch as the tree looked out for the passing

And became a rest for those as ancient as him;

When the thunder would strike and the lightning went hitting,

The Wishing Tree over the roof would bend all its leaves.

My mind was at ease, as I sometimes came to disclose;

But the Wishing Tree said he only came for the hope—

As I asked what he meant, he only bowed and shook his head,

And soon enough I realized—I realized he was scared.

There were moments, the mushrooms said,

When the roots in the ground would shy away;

And like the thunder, they proceeded to add,

The footfalls, they never quietened down.

The Wishing Tree its wishes has always hung on its leaves,

And some people, they came, and they collected these memories;

They weren’t their own, but they were priceless in meaning

Yet when the Wishing Tree tried to tell them—

They didn’t hear him.

The days passed away and the seasons came and went,

And I stood guard, but could do nothing else;

As they came with the axes, looking for diamonds in its core

But the timbers were ashy, because he wouldn’t give them what they’ve come for.

There came the people, but the people that have wished;

And the mushrooms and the foxes and the cats and the wind;

And the soil it was red with pieces of broken wood

And strawberries that have fallen and would find now no root.

They sang him a song, and the moments were empty;

The grass with them was littered, the wishes all twinkling;

The foxes, they cried, and the mushrooms claimed their prayers

Before all collected their wishes and abandoned the land.

I tried to cry myself to sleep but the night wouldn’t come

And the sun tried to shine, but she had nothing to shine on.

So the timbers faded to ash and the ashes to the dirt;

And the Wishing Tree was finally claimed by the earth.

Give me a wish, oh how I wished for it so hard;

But it had been but a tree, after all, and in my wishing it had no part.

So instead I sang my prayers and gave my heart to the wind

And I hoped that maybe one day, there would be another Wishing Tree.

© Michal Rotko

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

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