HOW TO BREATHE

By: 

David

Bottomley

This poem was written during lockdown last year. I am lucky to have my local park, Hilly Fields, opposite my home in Brockley to escape in for my daily walk during this time. It occurred to me how the usual taken-for-granted local topography seemed strange when seen from the point of view of a tree. I'm delighted the poem has just been selected for publication by Renard Press in the anthology, New Beginnings. There is also a film of the poem under its original title, Misplaced, by the actor, Paul Horsfield on the Bottomley Writes Youtube Channel, where 50 creatives collaborated during lockdown to interpret 50 of my poems on film.

Everything feels surreal
if you look at it long enough.
The rows of uniform terraced houses neatly arranged
even the repeat planting of trees in avenues
everything seems regimented unchanging
like this life you find yourself surviving.
How on earth does each tree keep sane
when it’s rooted to the same spot each day
can never escape for a change of scenery?
How does it keep motivated focused alive
weather the changing seasons shed inhibitions in fall
bare its soul in winter and grow new shoots in spring
increasing in size and stature
each year another ring yet remain somehow
the same?
I’ve tried to be different kinds of tree
but there’s no mistaking my type of bark
it’s ingrained and rough to the touch
my leaves will always be the same shape
my canopy cannot camouflage my category.
I get ruffled by the same maddening winds
and burnt by the same summer sun
but there are days when I’d rather be anyone
Or maybe I just haven’t learnt how to sync
my roots deep enough to draw on all the nutrients
and goodness I need to grow and thrive
to become established in my own right.
I’m too busy
worrying if
my branches
are growing
in all the right
directions to
ever remember
how to breathe.

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