We’d drive around
we’d drive around and look
for perfect trees, turning one way or another
towards beauty, or away from it, we didn’t know
deciding which direction felt most promising, most likely
to reward us with a glimpse of perfection.
We’d consider the composition
of a perfect tree, what elements
what proportions, and discuss these things
in detail, very calmly, though you resented me,
and always agreeing, though all our other conversations
flared red and made me run away.
We’d drive around in search
of sudden beauty, always agreeing
when we found a perfect tree, but never
photographing it, we didn’t want to flatten it
we’d try instead to remember how we found it
though we never returned.
Mary Ford Neal
Mary Ford Neal lives near Glasgow, in the UK, where she works as an academic at the University of Strathclyde, teaching, researching and writing about medical law and ethics. Themes in her current poetry include transitional spaces, edges, magical landscapes, pop culture of the 1980s, the sacred in all its forms, afterlives, pain and enlightenment, and the relationships between human bodies and the natural environment. She tweets (often about poetry) @maryfordneal.
About This Poem:
The poem describes a couple in conflict who find that they agree about what counts as a 'perfect tree', and can use this agreement as a way to be together peacefully for short periods, gaining respite from their life of disagreement and hostility by externalising the quest for perfection and beauty. For the narrator, ways of seeing are subverted: everyday life is too difficult to confront, but highly contested and subjective concepts like beauty and perfection are apparently straightforward.