About the Poems
by Valerie Witte
Various trees populated my yard growing up—sweetgum, oak, apple, holly. I would climb them, make clubhouses in them, give them as landmarks to help strangers locate home, pick their fruit (well, the one year in my lifetime when the apple tree actually bloomed). In these trees was a land all my own, where no one else ever entered, while my family and all of the accompanying memories of childhood were housed in the building that stood on this land—a place I still call home.
But this would not always follow. As a body is lost and broken, reborn in another form, so these trees break down and evolve over time. Some felled by disease, others maimed (with permission) by the neighbors’ saws. In their place have sprouted new trees, a boundless blanket of ivy, countless flowering plants—and strangely, untold numbers of clay pots, odd metal objects, and ceramic swans—courtesy of my mother’s newfound interest in gardening.
When what we know as home begins to shift and is remade in another form, or in a distant place … these hymns point toward an understanding of a personal history—whether I am ready for it or not.