The Poet Atop An Old Cypress Tree By The Sea


In memoriam “The Senator,”
ca. 1600 BCE – 2012 CE

My home’s the high acre
of this cathedraling tree
overlooking the sea,
waves pounding so hard at
the shore they resound
in roots two hundred feet down.

Mad Sweeney carved
his initials here — “NH”
for “Not Here” —
passing a night here
in his mad flight from
the blood-rage of men,
these nurturing boughs
the curative well that
burst from his head.

Ages come and flee
like storms from the sea,
water rising and receding,
the wind carrying distant
news of Stonehenge
and Chartres, hunters
spearing tortoises,
soldiers shooting natives
and tourists taking pictures.

All that below:
for me only this high
salt vantage wide as desire,
a moulting nest and chair
steepled over the
bronze bells of the surf.

The sky’s wings
spread day and night
before my old eyes,
psaltering the view
with knowledge forward
and back, old sorrows
and new thrills
cauling into a weird
shadow of flame.

I am the poet high up
the cypress by the sea,
singing of leaf in wild tide,
each poem’s root and branch
growing line by line
by night into day,
age into age,
an esplumoir molting
older newer gods
fresh on the page.


To be submitted to d’Verse Poets’ Open Link Night #27.


“The Senator,” a local cypress tree more than 3,500 years old,  burned down yesterday.


Sometimes an image stays with you forever. Long ago I read Leon Uris’ novel Trinity, about the curve of time in Ireland from the Great Famine to the Rebellion of 1916. At the beginning of the book, the tale’s protagonist as a boy witnesses the murder of the local senanchie or storyteller, bleeding to death after being brained by a stone. In that blood the boy sees the entire song of Ireland wasted, poured out, lost.

That image segues somehow to those of The Senator afire here in Central Florida, at 3,500-year-old cypress tree. Until yesterday, it was the oldest cypress tree in America and one of the oldest trees in the world. (The oldest known tree is a 4,842-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine named Methuselah in Inyo County, California.)

The Senator was once the largest tree east of the Mississippi; Seminole Indians used it as a landmark and tourists of the early twentieth century reached it by jumping log to log in a swamp. The tree was named after Senator Moses Overstreet, who donated the tree and surrounding land to Seminole County in 1925. Big Tree Park was a major tourist attraction before the advent of the Empire of the Mouse.

The old tree burned from the inside out, “like a chimney”; police originally suspected arson but later ruled it out, saying that it ignited from high up the interior, perhaps from an old lightning strike or friction. (The top of The Senator had been lopped off during a hurricane in 1925, leaving the upper cavity open to the elements.)  All but 25 feet of the tree burned down yesterday.

Another, smaller cypress tree called Lady Liberty is about 40 feet from The Senator and is estimated to be about 2,000 years old.

If dating of The Senator is correct, it was first shooting buds up out of the swamp about the time the Egyptian Book of the Dead was being written, half a millennium before the fall of Troy.

Thirty-five centuries is a lot of history to go up in smoke in one day. I watched news footage of the fire on TV yesterday – with the initial report of arson —  and saw in my mind’s eye that dying senanchie in Trinity, killed by a thug for local, political, personal reasons. That blood, those flames, and a great history lost forever.


Fare thee well, old father.


p.s. If this doesn’t quite float your attentive boat, another bit of Floridiana from yesterday’s news: Casey Anthony has been offered a job as a stripper at a club in Port St. Lucie (where Anthony is alleged to be living) called The Body Talk. Could there be an chthonic or icthyological relation nibbling the roots beneath the waterline of these seemingly disparate events?


Filed under Aging, Art and Heart, Celestial events, Creativity, Death, Devotions, Floridiana, Forest Shenanagans, Myth and Archetype, Nature, poetics, Poetry, Shamanism, Spirituality, The Dark, The Sea

17 responses to “The Poet Atop An Old Cypress Tree By The Sea

  1. hedgewitch

    Nothing lives forever, but how close this comes…if you’ve seen pictures of the bristlecone, it seems like something from another planet(and may someday be as much a fantasy, as the Rocky Mountain population is now seriously threatened by the same white pine blister rust that’s devastating pine populations across the country) Your cypress, and your nest in its far top–another spot surely where the world’s skin thins, where air meets earth in its envoy–seems more regally terran, less martian. Perhaps it’s the transient/eternal human poet who gives it place, or the lush environment of its habitat–lush as this poem with the sprouts of psyche. (Sorry to get off into the hort, but trees are a language of symbol that speaks straight to something primal in us, that yearning to be merged with green life.) Your last stanza is pure music.

  2. This is so incredibly sad. What a loss. That last stanza is (I agree with Hedge) pure music.

  3. the poet and the muse are one in this poem. i can see the muse sitting up in the tree also.

  4. Wow such a wonderful verse surely floats my boat, unlike that last bit of news.

  5. Wow, that makes me so sad. But you penned a wonderful poem, a wonderful tribute. I have chills now.

  6. wow…a 3,500-year-old cypress tree…love the majesty of these trees..and if they had eyes and mouths they could tell many stories…but you told it for them…love how you weave the strings here together brendan

  7. I love how tree’s (for me anyway) brings enlightenment and perspective like none other. There is a spirit and muse about nature that seems to lull us into meditation and offer visions of life as we have never known but, the hope of it’s possibility. I love this. Stanza’s 4 and 5 are so lovely. The entire piece just weeps of beauty. Nice.

  8. Trees have tha magic, and when theiir scenery is also the sea… wow, beauifuly captured.
    thanks for sharing

  9. you know not a bad gig being the poet in the tree watching the pounding surf accompanied by the initials of not here…smiles…well spun brendan…i imagine the tree feeds that poet well…

  10. I liked the image the poetry and the lines …

    ‘Ages come and flee
    like storms from the sea,’

    How true… we all live in moments and make history… It was good to know about the “Senator” thanks for sharing..


    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    At twitter @VerseEveryDay

  11. Here your words are beyond the mythology you usually weave. Here your voice raises with the best of the best and I think of all the poems of yours I love, this will hold a special place because I know trees as I know me. Your words ring through the wood and through the rings with those of Horace, Virgil, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Eliot and most of all they echo perhaps the greatest of all the poets, W. B. Yeats:
    “But seek alone to hear the strange things said
    By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
    And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know
    Come near; I would, before my time to go,
    Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
    Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.”

  12. Beautiful, Brendan– saw this on the news but didn’t quite compute as I was in a wash of half-sleep. I have come to think of you as our leading poet of the sea. xxxxj

  13. Pingback: The Diver and The Lord of the Tree (a shamanic vision) | Oran's Well

  14. Wonderful perspective from the top of that cypress, Brendan. A lament.

  15. Pingback: Rauhnächte ’99 – Die Reisen zu Großmutter Bär | Zarahs Abenteuer im Hier & Jetzt

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