This is a reposting of a thing I initially wrote and posted to Tumblr several years ago. It’s a little bit prose and a little bit poem and was the very beginning of what has become a bit of an obsession with tree people. It was inspired by the lovely work of Lotte Hobbes.
. . .
No one ever talked about the violence of it. The saplings were taught that it was a rebirth and a cause for celebration. Finally, they would say, you’re becoming what you were always meant to be. Even before, he’d thought there was a suspicious absence around their truths.
No one ever talked about the way his ribs would crack the week before. How he would spend two days curled up in pain, unable to breathe. Or about the knot of pressure that formed around his spine and still hadn’t faded six months later. And the branches, they’d practically clawed their way out of him.
No one ever talked about the thirst that sent him pacing up and down the red and brown pebbled shore of that vast lake, looking for a place to plant himself for a while. Just a while. He hadn’t meant to stay this long, but the waves were so calming and the breeze was so wild. He lay down in the sand where the water kissed the shore and got lost counting his breaths.
No one ever talked about what it would mean to be noticed–suddenly and unexpectedly–for what he was before he’d figured it out for himself. So when he woke to find the rook harpy looking down on him, head wings twitching and feathers being flustered by the wind, his every branch tipped toward her. The need in him produced a keening high pitched wail that only he could hear.
Everyone talked about the rook harpies. They were crass and disrespectful of the place the mother of all had given to the tree people. They trespassed, and rested in the branches of the elders. When he had been young it’d been easy for him to agree and to hate, but now he wasn’t sure. Maybe his people existed at all to give the rook harpies a place to belong. He felt like she belonged to him.
No one ever talked about the mutual benefits. How she would peel away his bark with her talons, letting the sun in to warm him, making him stronger. Or how she would take him under the arms and fly him across the great lake just so he could see what home looked like from far away. Or how her lips would speak to his skin, running her secrets from his neck to his calves, reigniting his bursting violence.
No one ever talked about the terror of it. Of the mirror another could become when his whys were still questions and his wheres were always else.