The Birnham Oak

Lee Upton Click to

uptonLee Upton’s most recent books are Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles from the Cleveland State University Poetry Center and The Tao of Humiliation: Stories, winner of the BOA Short Fiction Award, finalist for the Paterson Prize and named one of the “best books of 2014” by Kirkus Reviews.  Another collection of her short stories, Visitations, is forthcoming in 2017.

“The Birnam Oak and its neighbour the Birnam Sycamore are thought to be the sole surviving trees of the great forest that once straddled the banks and hillsides of the River Tay. This forest is celebrated in Shakespeare’s Macbeth as the famous Birnam Wood.”  –Visit Scotland website

Just as three witches whistled past,
their hems crusted with leaves,
the oak opened to hide me.

Not age or disease
punched a hollow into the oak
when the birds left their nests

and the woods rose over the hill.
Soon enough Macbeth’s head
turned up on a stick–

that was politics.  That’s always
politics: somebody
can’t figure out what words mean.

When it rained the oak sizzled
like a log on a fire,
and I was stuck.  Some trick.

In another storm of ink I was freed.
How close to the forest
those writers were.

They each wrote
with a feather.
One of them put out words like leaves.