Andrew H. Oerke

Tree Huggers of the World Unite


Cross my heart and hope to die I graft my spine into the bark.

I'm a tree hugger who gets a kick out of rubbing the wood.

I pledge allegiance to the most natural world

I can think of and still call it natural

so I worship everything besides my urban self:

rock and baobab, beast and bumblebee,

to make my virtual self as real as possible.


Suddenly I'm slurp-sucked upward by a capillary

attraction that could be just contraction though.

What's the difference if my thoughts are shooting up

xylem and phloem and then out a cluster of leaves

into the wide-open air called wind and sky

where I would pledge allegiance to the natural world again

if I could soar so high though I almost do at the tree's tip-top.

Pantheist, all-around alchemist and whatever,

I salute the extraneous, the peripheral,

the superfluous, and the totally insignificant.

I see the extraordinary in just ordinary things

that whisper to me.  Saint Francis is my governor,

and Walt smuggled me into the Secret Society

of Dead Poets when my spine was grafted into the pine even

though just for a harebrained fraction of a second.

Now I'm redwood here, live oak there.  These upwardly-tunnel-

tough straws suck my breath up and breathe O2 back in.


I stand here with my back jammed into the bark

not into the wall where we all may be shot sooner or

later with pain-killing needles instead of bullets.

So let the Noble Savage scream for all he's worth

and sing for his supper as long as he's able to.

When they shoot me I'll turn and drop my pants to moon 'em;

they'll have a rosy red bullseye to aim at, right here.

Andrew H. Oerke recently returned to poetry after many years in development work with the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations.  His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, and elsewhere.  In 2006, his two new collections, African Stiltdancer and San Miguel de Allende, were published jointly by Swan Books and the UN Society for Writers and Artists and subsequently received the United Nations Literature Award.  His most recent book, Never Seek to Tell Thy Love, was published in 2010.



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