A little while ago, to help me celebrate the launch of my fifth book, Beautiful Trees, I ran a competition. 150 words inspired by trees.
I had a lot of entrants.
And I mean, a lot.
And I read every one of them, at least a couple of times.
And I drew up a long list (here).
And I drew up a shortlist too.
And, finally, after many moments, I picked my winner.
First, the runners-up.
1000 Leaves, by Rosie Lewis
He closed his eyes, as with every first bite of something never tasted before: a habit kept from childhood. Incisors sank through brittle layers. Mould. Earth. Heavy, dusky, damp on the nose. Some dry morsels clung to his closing lips. The flavour intensified as he chewed, thin leaves broken by molars to dusty fragments. The mote-weighted taste of spores and rained-on ground, and the sour-sweet redolence of dawn hoar frost rushed through his thoughts with the air in his nostrils.
He thought of slowing sap flow and brittle branches. He was chewing dry leaves that had died with the summer. He swallowed, with the help of the glass of water paused on the table. Leaf pieces stuck to his teeth, in his throat. He met her waiting gaze across from his
“What’s this called then?”
“Oh. It’s lovely.”
He swallowed again. Now the rest.
THE TREE, by Stephen Wright.
The Dodge pickup’s insect-mobbed headlights illuminated the
tree, its spindly branches clawing at the stars. The only sound the
engine ticking under the hood and the chirp of a million insects.
Five men, bathed in the stagnant Mississippi heat, stood still now,
an excitement slowly leaving their eyes.
Jessie, struggled no more, chained against the tree, his hands
bound behind him, links biting into skin. This was his tree all right,
he and Maisie shared their first kiss here last summer. He’d carved
their initials encircled in a heart. With that kiss he felt finally he’d
moved from boy to man and now from man to ghost. The tree had
seen it all.
The men had done some carving of their own, the large letter Ks
criss-crossed his bare back. With the slamming of the pick-up’s
doors the Dodge drove off leaving the tree with its memories.
Cherie, by P.N, Warnes
For seventeen years I have watched over you
Watched your shadow in the streetlight
Edge further from home
Your branches stretch and brush the garage roof
When you were small I cut the stake
That tethered you,
Stripped the creeping ivy
That strangled you
Raked the leaves that you shed
As the cold came.
“Is tree dying?” my daughter asked me
When your blossom iced the lawn
and you were both very young.
The blossom always returns.
Profligate Beauty, by Melissa Fu
Every year they do it:
Shower coins of gold
onto the streets,
spend their splendour,
blaze away months
of steady growth
in one clarion bright week,
drop crimson banners
and falling flames,
fill the gutters
And when the tossing,
waving limbs finally
all that remains are
bare arms, with
not even a stitch
left for winter.
And the winner is, and thoroughly deserved – I love this story…
If A Tree Falls, by Hannah Coyle
The trees came walking that night, the ones we cut.
“Run!” someone shouted.
“Fight!” cried another.
The trees took them both, slashing their bodies as we’d slashed theirs.
“I’m sorry.” I stood before them, these deformed things, with shorn limbs and shattered trunks. We’d cut them for fire, for land, for the ignorance of pretty things in pretty homes, as if four walls could keep the world out. Around me people cried, people screamed, they ran and they died because nature is the ultimate victor. “I’m sorry,” I said, and truly I was, but the trees cut me down anyway, because sorry could only do so much, and sometimes regret is not enough.
Again, huge thanks to all who took the time to enter and write good things – loads of you did and it was a pleasure to be able to read so many great, and tree-inspired, pieces. Huge congrats to the runners-up who were all so close to winning, and a massive bunch of congratulations to Hannah for a brilliant piece.
By the time this is up you should have all been contacted. If you haven’t been, then sit tight – I’m on it.