How to Fall out of a Pine Tree (Nathanael O’Reilly)

Select the tallest tree
in the backyard and reach

up with both hands
grasp the lowest branch

place your right foot against
the trunk at waist-height

support your weight
with both hands and swing

your left foot
onto the trunk

walk your feet up to the lowest
branch then pull yourself

into a sitting position
pause   rest and breathe

lift your feet from beneath
one by one onto the branch

then stand while grasping
the trunk     pause     reach up

for the branch above your head
and repeat the previous actions

until you ascend to the highest
branch that supports your weight

sit and gaze over corrugated rooftops
look down into neighbour’s yards

spy on garden sheds, vegie gardens
hills hoists, compost bins and swing sets

let go of the branch and balance
marvel at your poise and skill

fall backwards through needles
and branches towards earth

land on the lowest branch
grasp firmly and slow your heart

look around for witnesses
gently lower yourself to earth

walk towards the back door
upon trembling bloody legs


Nathanael O’Reilly’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies published in twelve countries, including Antipodes, Anthropocene, Australian Love Poems, Backstory, Cordite, FourW, FourXFour, Glasgow Review of Books, Headstuff, Marathon, Mascara, Postcolonial TextSkylight 47, Snorkel, Tincture, Transnational Literature, Verity La and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017. His books include (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020), Preparations for Departure (UWAP Poetry, 2017), named one of the “2017 Books of the Year” in Australian Book Review, Cult (Ginninderra Press, 2016), Distance (Ginninderra Press, 2015), Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011) and Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010). You can find out more about Nat on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram