Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spanish Moss

Every night the old Spaniards knit their beards in the darkness
They speak to each other as the old gnarled fingers work at their chins
Twigs flying as they work and
They speak of great cities they remember
Seville, Madrid, Valencia and so on.
They speak of streets they walked down which all somehow lead to the sea
Where great ships waited to take them across
To a different land where their feet touched white beach sand,
Black jungle dirt, swampy grasses growing like lakes forever and always as far as the eye could see.
They speak of the days they road huge white horses through the strange land
Which stretched so far their beards grew and grew as they rode,
And when they died (remember when we died? they ask, deep, old man chortles coming out of their throats)
They stayed where they fell of disease or hunger or the spears of an another kind of men,
and their comrades rode on
Some to cross the sea back to the streets of Spain
But not these men who knit their beards every night
In the trees
Great cypress trees, older than Christ would be if he were still alive,
Great oaks, older than fifteen saints,
Tiny dogwoods, younger than they were when they first saw the ocean
Their eyes still brown before the sun bleached them to palest blue
When their hair was still black
Before the years bleached it to mossy gray.

And they knit, they knit
They talk, they laugh
Remember? They ask
Ah, si, they sigh
The sighs tangling in the branches, in their beards
As the night moves on, inky like their hair once was
Until the dawn begins and pale light begins to paint
The east and they yawn and throw away their twigs

And cut the ends of their knitting, making sharp points of it everywhere
And they fade back into the trees themselves
And leave their work out for anyone to see
Anyone at all
Even me
As the sun takes over and daylight travels from east to west as they once did
They rest, they sleep, they turn in their slumber in the trees, great ones and small
Old ones and young
Depending on where they were when they died, perhaps
I do not know if they can still travel
But I know this-
They knit their beards every night and grow them again every day
As their snores rumble quietly, trembling the knitting
They did the night before, the leaves, too
And when the sun sets they take up their twigs again and work them in their beards
And they take up their conversation where they left off

Do you remember? Ah, si,
That Ponce de Leon he was a bastard and a fool,
That Balboa he was one too
They nod, they knit, they chuckle in their beards
As the trees tremble and the birds nestle in nests made of tattered lace
Which they stole the day before
As the old Spaniards slept in the trees
As the old Spaniards slept in the sun.

Dreaming of before they had beards
To knit.
Dreaming of before they slept in trees.


  1. I love bearded trees, because I love old trees, because I love trees.

  2. I think this is my favorite post yet.

  3. Your poetry is every bit as wondrous as your everyday thoughts ~ thank you, Mary Moon. I love trees more than just about anything. Have you seen the bumper sticker, "Mommy, what were trees?"???

    The old oaks in my yard have the beards, too, but I never thought of them as remembering the things yours do...I bet they do. Since Ponce de Leon SUPPOSEDLY "discovered" St. Augustine. I guess the native Americans were pretty surprised to be "discovered" ~

    Anyway, I love the wisdom of trees. When my neighbor across the street clear-cut several hundred-year-old oaks, I heard "my" trees screaming and I went out and told them, "Don't worry, that will never happen to you, at least as long as I'm here." I cried for months and still do when I allow myself to think about it. The devastation. Sometimes you must just close the door on those thoughts or they will make you crazy.

    But I digress. Thank you once again for the beautiful poetry!

  4. I will always thing of the old Spanish sailors sitting up there in the trees knitting and chuckling into their newly knit beards every time I see Spanish moss now, and we have a lot of it in CA. A whimsical, funny and wise poem, Ms Moon. x0 N2

  5. Nigel- Me too!

    Swallowtail- It was a poem that demanded itself.

    Lulu- Oh. That hurts my heart too. How can people DO that? Have you ever read The Education Of Little Tree? I am not sure you should if you have not. It's a heart breaker but a beautiful one.

    N2- The image came to me, I had to write it.

  6. such a welcome. to return to this. oh my.

    I can't wait to read all the posts I have missed while away. But this. Deep sigh.

  7. Ms. Moon, this feels to me like it's only missing music. It's almost a full-grown song. How lovely. Thank you so much.
    Love, love.

  8. Lovely. I love anything Entish.

  9. Hallo luv. What a delightful poem. We have been relishing the sun in the moss since spring appeared a week ago. It is magic and you have made it even more so. Thank you also for the visit to beautiful downtown Lloyd with the family. Sweet! xo xo

  10. oh wow.
    love this.
    felt it.
    that last photo too.

  11. You are a magical storyteller Ms. Moon...I bet your children and now Owen have been entranced by you...I think this told on a dark night with the moon casting shadows and the sounds of the trees in a breeze would be soooo good...perhaps a video of you telling this...oh yes!

  12. I love Spanish Moss. Live Oaks are my favorite trees. They remind me of home in Savannah.

    This is a beautiful post, Ms. Moon.

    Much love,



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