The Tree

Christine Hill

In the morning when I run,
the bush smells sweet. 
The dog agrees.
Seduced by bedded scents of nature’s nightlife, 
her nose sweeps the undergrowth.
I push my legs. 
Urge my breath. 
Make myself keep going.
When the virus comes              in the morning             when I run 
                 I stop dead        beside a tree whose patterned trunk 
       contains the world          I think of Borges’ maps           And exact science 
                                                                 On one side      the river gum is smooth
           the other              dimpled like the cheek of a happy child 
                                                                 I lean my back against the solid bark and feel safe.
I close my eyes, slow my breath, let myself be still.
The dog waits.
                                                                        When the virus comes again, 
                                                                         I am prepared.
                                                                         In the morning when I run,
                                                                         I have my tree,
                                                                         a world imagined,
                                                                         senses, legs, and breath, 
                                                                         a dog who seems to understand these things, 
                                                                         enough to make myself keep going.

Christine Hill is a midwife, psychotherapist, and writer living in Melbourne, a city which, at the time of writing, was experiencing its fifth lockdown. Her PhD in Creative Writing from Swinburne University included a play (about the emotional world of a baby) which has been presented at La Mama in Melbourne and internationally. Her essay, ‘How could you do this to us?’, concerning her work with asylum-seeking families, was awarded the 2017 Writers Victoria Grace Marion Wilson Prize for non-fiction, and re-published in Meanjin.

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