Poetry Friday: Hazel, Hawthorn, Oak, and Ash

This month’s Inkling challenge came from Linda. She suggested that we “find or write a poem in any form of any length for Folktale Week November 14-20, 2022.” Linda shared this explanation of Folktale Week, which is primarily for visual artists, from their Facebook page: “Folktale Week prompts artists to respond to folktales and share their work on instagram #folktaleweek! Use #folktaleweek2022. Prompts will be released by the hosts on October 17th. You will have over a month to search for your favorite folktales, discover new ones, work on your own amazing art, or even write your own tales! Be sure to follow #folktaleweek2022 to find others who are joining!”

I loved this idea immediately. This year’s prompts are fool, tree, star, rebel, costume, potion, and victory. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you won’t be at all surprised to learn that I chose tree as my starting point. This lead me down several rabbit holes and false starts. Maple trees dominated my childhood yard, but my memories didn’t have a folktale feel to them. I turned to my Celtic heritage and came up with this very rough draft.

Hazel, Hawthorn, Oak, and Ash

In the before times,
when the world still fed on dreams,
forests filled with
hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash
spread across the land,
sharing their gifts with all.

But dark clouds of greed
descended on the forest.

The timeless rhythms of 
hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash
were drowned out by the the
thwack, thwack, thwack,
of the axe.

The forest thinned
and wept.
And the world forgot
how to dream.

The forest remembers
those ancient dreams.
They whisper to us
on the wind
of hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash.

Be still.
They’re waiting for you.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to this challenge:

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe (Heidi is also hosting Poetry Friday this week. Thank you, Heidi!)
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Hazel, Hawthorn, Oak, and Ash

  1. I just love saying “hazel, hawthorn, oak, and ash.” Your poem is a wonderful tale of these trees and their relationship to us. One of our local artists wrote a trilogy of picture books about the legend of the live oaks. Makes me think this poem could be the seed for a picture book idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This has all the rhythm and feel of an ancient tale. The “thwack, thwack, thwack,
    of the axe” cut me to my very core and echoed the fate of the Grandmother Oak in my poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooooh, lovely refrain indeed! And don’t you and I both have witch hazel poems? (Just remembered that…let’s add them to our posts.) Hazel is extra special for you, of course…I love the line “when the world still fed on dreams” also.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is wonderful, Catherine! It has a timeless feel, like it’s a tale I heard once upon a time, a long time ago. Like so many others, I love the rhythmic refrain of those tree names. “And the world forgot how to dream” is such a poignant line.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine, your special words are a lament for lost natural wonders. Your poem is suitably powerful and evocative in reminding us of what has been lost in the pursuit of greed and shortsightedness. I am moved. The aim of writing is to evoke a response from a reader. I feel the axe blows. You have done this with aplomb. The repetition of ‘hazel, hawthorn, oak and ash’ is indeed a timeless rhythm.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It makes me sad to read & then to imagine “They whisper to us on the wind”. I grew up in Missouri & if you look at a map, you can see the state stretches from Kansas City (west) to St. Louis )east. I remember discovering that that entire area, all the way across had been forested once. Now there are small gatherings of trees but most has become farmland. Your folktale poem offers a loving ode to those trees, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is what November has done to me…your post from November 3…I am reading on November 26. My goodness, I seem to have lost most of a month to busy-ness. This poem’s refrain is stunning. It harkens back to a time before, even if the opening didn’t tell me that. It almost feels like a spell. Wouldn’t it be nice if a spell could save some of our precious trees from those axes?

    Liked by 1 person

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