Poetry Saturday: Under the Syringa Tree

"Syringa Tree" is such a specific reference, one that I cannot remember (are we surprised at this point that I can't remember doing many of these poems). My first instinct was that I was referring to a species of tree mentioned in Wangari Maathai's memoir, "Unbowed," but I knew that wasn't right. I read that book during my junior year of college, and I know I wrote this poem in high school. Most likely my senior year of high school, based on the format, but I'm not entirely sure. I did a quick Google search, and "The Syringa Tree" is a play about childhood under apartheid. I didn't read the play and I haven't seen a performance of the play, so I know I didn't get the idea of the tree from there. I'm not from Africa and I've never been to Africa, so I know the reference isn't from a personal experience with an exact tree or with the species. I'm dumbfounded. Why would I write this poem and reference this tree? I wouldn't even know what a Syringa tree looked like if I saw one.

Under the Syringa Tree


Good work, good moral

and good luck


from the fallen leaves,

broken branches,

and withered roots

of the Syringa Tree


Ignorance is bliss.  And when the truth is hacked to the ground right in front of you, it’s all difficult to salvage.  From under the Syringa Tree, we saw the loss of comfort.


Late lilacs blossom

lavender, brightly,

after a winter

of hibernating strength.

Together, in one

the flowers grow

in soil cluttered

with the giant kudzu,

the fat outreaching one

with an overbearing green


through manipulation


Kudzu battles

the rival Dandelion





There’s only one

Syringa Tree,

one set of lilacs

for all to share.

They fight

for the credit

of the lilacs


Lilacs fade

and shrivel

with stolen credit

and stolen time;

The pleasure

of the flower



Gust to gust

puddle to puddle

winds and monsoons

were tough to trek

time and time again;

But under the Syringa Tree

leaves, branches

and roots

have protected

the underlings



fostered by rings

of an extended legacy


the fruits of labor

in koa bowls

and golden trophies


Cutting the grains

of harvest,

sharing the gold

under the Syringa Tree,

fun and company

under the Syringa Tree



nurtured by

the Buddha

the native gardener

the distant hope

the rival dandelion

and all-knowing doc


But now,

the Syringa Tree,

gnarled by drama

wrinkled by stress

and tireless labor

of previous sunsets,


and grew

a most honorable name,

only to have it

eventually slandered

by senior woodcutters

and junior poachers

of a selfish gain


Senior woodcutters

who squabble for wood.

Wood that doesn’t

matter in the long run

yet benefits all

in the short.

And through the skirmish,

hack branches.


Junior poachers

looking for

every advantage

to help themselves,

to feed their inane mouths

and bask

in stolen sunlight


We now fight for the lilacs,

the same lilacs

we used to share

and grow together.


The underlings are losing

the Syringa Tree

he blossoms no longer

the same lilac





Lovers to Come

Journeys to Go:


and lost

The rich savannas,

a balanced circle,

and prosperity



except the foes


The previous season

oversaw glory

of a new kind

and a fight to defend

a clean match up


But soon squandered

is tomorrow,

under the Syringa Tree

the lilacs are lost

The underlings

won’t be there much longer.

They will wither too.

dried spirit,

dried young’un spirit

deprived of an energy

even hose far from

the Syringa Tree

could use


And by then

more than the lilacs

will be lost


But the whole tree.


Just a stump will sitt,

trying again to rebuild

what the kudzu

and the senior woodcutters

and the junior poachers



Branches severed by the human hand never regain their original shade.  The comfort under the Syringa Tree will never have the same breeze nor will the lilacs bloom in the same radiance.  The Syringa Tree may survive but will never grow greatness again.