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“Real knowledge comes out of the whole corpus of the consciousness; out of your belly and your penis as much as out of your brain and mind. The mind can only analyse and rationalize. Set the mind and the reasons to cock it over the rest, and all they can do is to criticize, and make a deadness. I say all they can do. It is vastly important. My God, the world needs criticizing today . . . criticizing to death. Therefore let’s live the mental life, and glory in our spite, and strip the rotten old show. But, mind you, it’s like this: while you live your life, you are in some way an organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connection between the apple and the tree: the organic connexion. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple . . . you’ve fallen off the tree. And then it is a logical necessity to be spiteful, just as it’s a natural necessity for a plucked apple to go bad.”

—D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928



Where the oaks stood
on the crown of a knoll
until they were felled
to timber the trenches of
the war to end all wars
I stand with you now in
silence—what to do,
what to do, I wonder,
with these empty hands?

You’ve never thought
yourself a whittler, I am sure,
or a hewer of hardwood,
hatchet-driven, yet how else
to describe what became of
the foliate lushness of our
beginnings, the time and life
surrrounding us, the acorns
of my words spilling across
the humus of your visions?

You wouldn’t water them,
my words; the cisterns where
you gathered rain, you kept off
limits, saving your moist breath
for sellers of tinsel, masked
with ruby lips.

The silence stretches pink and
taut like a pregnant frog’s belly,
like the gum you used to chew
with intense concentration as
if thoughts beyond where’s the
nearest door were ready to burst.

They never did. Nothing burst
but you and me and nothing’s
changed. We didn’t need to meet
here today where oaks perished
to furnish killing fields to establish
once again that stand-offs cannot
grow stanzas or new stands of trees.

My left hand is twitching. I spy
an acorn near your foot and
wonder which of us first spoke
it. Our eyes meet as if you’re
daring me, and with the toe of
your boot you kick dirt over the
lone fetal oak. Resigned, I sigh,
reach out to shake your hand
and from the inky sky falls the
drop that will become the deluge
that washes away you, me, and
every one of us warmongers.


© Elaine Stirling, 2012