Leaden cannon balls
Weighing me down,
Attached by cords to depressed thoughts in my head.
Mouth drooping, an inverse smile.
On the outside.
A foreigner, not one of the tribe.
Envying the easy connections,
The allusions understood,
The feeling of belonging,
At home in your collective condition,
In your grief, your outrage, your sadness,
Your hopes and your festivals and your faith.
A shared history that I do not share:
Like trembling poplars springing up from the same
Network of roots,
Your organic growth feeds off yourselves.
Offspring like ramets, spreading you further afield.
While I stand alone, in my own space.
Leaves whispering in the aspen grove,
Stories passing from one to the other
And I bend to listen, but cannot understand.
An understanding that is deeply emotional,
For me only ever intellectual.
This is who I am, they say,
And you are different.
The black poplar,
Not one of us.
Different foods, different habits, different smells:
Alienated by my differences.
Apart, other, separated.
Never one of you.
Useless to try.
And my eyes are still heavy
The mouth turned down.
“The aspen’s main method of reproduction is vegetative, with new suckers, or ramets, growing off the roots of mature trees. The numbers of new shoots produced in this way can be very prolific, especially after a major disturbance such as fire, with the density of ramets reaching 70,000 per hectare. Aspen has an extensive root system, and ramets have been recorded growing up to 40 metres from a parent tree. Because of their access to nutrients through the parent tree’s root system, aspen ramets can grow very quickly – up to a metre per year for the first few years. As the ramets grow, they remain joined through their roots, and all the interconnected trees are called a clone. They are all the same individual organism and are therefore all single-sexed, either male or female. Each clone exhibits synchronous behaviour, with, for example, all the component trees coming into leaf at the same time in the spring. A clone can also sometimes be identified by the specific colour its leaves change to in the autumn.”