Location: Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
Tree Interview With Ryan Doyle May
Do you ever think about trees?
When I was twenty, I spent a week in an abandoned prison in Morges, Switzerland. It was being renovated by a group of musicians, one of which was the lover of the woman I was traveling with. I am referring here to a time before college, pre-writing, pre-New York, pre-everything. One of the musicians, named Bjorn took me on a hike somewhere. I don’t remember if we were alone or not. I want to believe we were.
He led me into two giant willow trees. They were close enough together, that when we stood beneath them they encased us completely. Surrounded in green, the light breaking through the leaves reminded me of the stained glass windows I had seen in the gothic cathedrals I visited in France prior to my arrival. At the time I would not have been able to assign an architectural period to these cathedrals.
What is a vivid/significant memory you have involving a tree or trees?
I was told to look away, so I looked up. I looked up because my babysitter’s daughter, a toddler, had fallen into the lake where we were fishing. Before I looked up, I saw my babysitter reaching for her daughter’s head, at that point, it was completely underwater. For a moment I thought she was under glass. I looked up and saw the branches of a dead tree. It was summer. Why are branches bare in summer?
Are trees involved at all in your writing or worldview?
Throughout middle school and high school I collected stones and crystals, specifically black onyx. It was something between Goth and Grunge, and the color of the stone appealed to me. Black onyx is considered the devil’s stone. It has many healing and defensive properties, but is also thought to control sexual impulse. At the time, I equated being gay to an impulse. This is something you believe growing up in a religious household, this is something you wake up in the morning and pray about, you pray about it over the bathwater before you bathe. You pray the water clean.
Because my onyx wasn’t working, I buried it beneath an aspen tree in my backyard. I did this beneath the borrowed light of a full moon, left it there for a full week, in order to neutralize and cleanse it.
I buried the devil, and then I dug him up again.
Ryan Doyle May’s work has appeared in Bombay Gin, Esque, Food I Corp, Supermachine, Divining Divas: 100 Gay Poets on the Women Who Inspire Them and others. He is the author of the chapbook The Anatomy of Gray (Corresponding Society Press) and acted as the lead in the short film August, which was selected for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and lives in Brooklyn.
Go Green: http://poetryproject.org/multimedia/ryan-doyle-may-the-anatomy-of-gray-the-mix-tape-42312.html