Poets Walk: "Whereas"
Location on Poets Walk Map: Band O
The Emancipation Proclamation, by William Heyen
Whereas it minds its own mind
& lives in its one place so faithfully
& its trunk supports us when we lean against it
& its branches remind us of how we think
Whereas it keeps no bank account but hoards carbon
& does not discriminate between starlings & robins
& provides free housing for insects & squirrels
& lifts its heartwood grave into the air
Whereas it holds our firmament in place
& writes underground gospel with its roots
& whispers us oxygen with its leaves
& so far survives our new climate of ultraviolet
Whereas it & its kind when we meet beneath them
shade our sorrows & temper our prayers
& their colors evoke our dream of beauty
from before we were born into this hereafter
We the people for ourselves & our children
necessarily proclaim this tree
free from commerce & belonging to itself
as long as it & we shall live.
William Heyen, "Emancipation Proclamation" from Pterodactyl Rose: Poems of Ecology (St. Louis, MO: Time Being Books, 1991). Used by permission of the author.