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Perfect Trees by Mary Ford Neal

Perfect Trees

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.

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