I saw a perfect tree today

Lillian Allen

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I saw a perfect tree today

From my cabin bed on a Via Rail train 

Through the North of Ontario

I saw a perfect tree today

It was tall and thin and scraggly and prim

Then I saw another just as perfect

Short and sturdy with branches and brambles 

And then another with a rugged fat trunk

Older than the rest, but just as perfect


I saw a dozen trees in a clump sharing the light

So their growth was stunted

But regal they were, plumped and perfect

And then a small twisted tree

with leaves fallen, trunk slanted

all the more perfect


I saw tens and hundreds, and thousands

And hundreds of thousands of trees

Not one single tree exactly like another

And yet they were all perfect, all perfect trees


A man-child from Mississauga heading to bend steel

To make his fortunes in the Alberta oil fields;

“I’ve never seen so many trees in my whole life”

A balding dude 30 years a social worker

Retiring home to Winnipeg, calms;

“Where I come from they cut them all down,

long, long, long before I was born.”

And I am reminded—This land, this land

Where cities have sprouted,

Blooming glistening skyscrapers at night

T’was all covered with trees once

One big forest we were once

All perfect trees.

Copyright © Lillian Allen. Originally published in Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (League of Canadian Poets, 2018).