You could not prise "God's Representative" away,
no, not for all the prayers in Christendom,
not when he had those cans clamped to his ears,
when all the dials were dancing as he turned the knobs
and all the churchyard trees were in full song -
or maybe clattering like cotton mills
or chattering like teeth in Arctic blasts,
day after day, night after night and all year long.
His listening, begun way back
as a distraction, then became
in turn a pastime and the meaning of his life.
Applying probes and sensors to the chosen tree,
he'd "tune in" to a programme of delight.
(Living in the Vicarage, it seemed the natural thing
to use the churchyard trees for purposes so innocent.)
Alas, his fascination gripped him like Beelzebub Himself,
consumed him, body mind and spirit, totally.
I couldn't really censure him for that:
He played his tapes to me one evening, struck me dumb.
Could not believe what I was hearing. Talk
about not knowing our own planet. Those trees of his
are actual bloody cities, towns and villages!
Those trees, I said? All trees, I guess - for why
should they be different, those churchyard trees?
Except some thought they were... some villagers
came round to say the sounds were not of trees
but of the bodies down below among their roots!
They too, could not believe their ears, could not
imagine how such noises came
from those strong silent things;
from bugs consuming smaller bugs
beneath the bark; from cells exploding or
decaying, or from timber in its growth;
from buds unfolding; or from movements, natural
and constant, of both earth and air
and what these do to branches and to roots.
And as for what the juices do that flow,
you might be listening, for all that you could tell,
to pond life, to the glump and gurgle of some frenzied fish.
Cells that maintain osmotic pressure, for example,
fill with air; they slurp and suck and pop.
And did you know that all trees hum? Or that
they generate a range of ultrasounds?
It's fascinating stuff.
Eavesdropping on the dead some locals called it.
It got quite nasty for a while - until "God's Representative"
arranged a demonstration miles away, deep in the woods
and far from any grave. He played his Woodland Symphony.
There still were doubters, though,
who worried for their loved ones who had gone.
The Bishop was petitioned,
and he soon struck the practice dead -
ensured the churchyard residents could rest in peace.
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