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April 2017, vol 13 no 1

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Claire Everett

Mother Tongue

Nothing. Neither a letter, nor a phone call. Yet for every circumstance, I can predict just what she’d do. In one or another of my children certain well-worn expressions have lighted on a new face. Seized by the red mist or frog-throat of an emotion, it’s one of her turns of phrase I find in my mouth.

years of silence
while all around me
mothers speak wisdom
to their offspring . . .
the kinship of trees

As the years pass, these are the wide arms I seek, these the listening ears. Bare or green, russet or gold, they keep their counsel, but long I have thought they only speak through wind or rain. Who am I to say what is shared between darkling roots; what histories are written in the grain?

when I’m everything
she made me . . .
the tongue-and-groove
of heirloom words

Author’s Note: Research by ecologists such as Suzanne Simard has concluded that trees can no longer be seen as purely separate entities; that they not only communicate with each other but mother trees can recognise their own seedlings and colonise their families with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They give up root-space to allow their young to grow and when injured, or dying, pass on seeds of wisdom to their young by way of carbon messages.