The growth rings inside trees cannot lie,
They're like our bones which thicken with years
Of bending over children, grinding the wheat,
"Bone goes through bone,"
Grandmother Floarea used to say.
Tree rings, each cradled in the next,
Each as evidence of what the world has offered
And how the tree has worked with it;
How one grew round the other,
Strengthening the core with its own essence.
And words? Do they grow like the tree rings
From our humanity? Democracy, from Socrates
(Who said it contains all of our vices)
To our lifetime when our virtues will not be elected
By our votes. Can we say delusion of freedom?
Grandmother said "I work so you will have
An easier life. I grind my bones for you."
When you fell the tree, to see its growth rings,
You cut off its life. Cut off the freedom to see
How it is made, and you'll stand on a stump.
Plato told the parable of the boat, steered
By its passengers: he said democracy doesn't work.
We each take a turn at capsizing our ship
In the still benevolent sea. There will be rings
In the water, where we went down.
Carmen Bugan is the author of the memoir Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police, a critical study, Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry: Poetics of Exile, and three collections of poems, the most recent of which is Releasing the Porcelain Birds: Poems after Surveillance