We Own the Forests

We Own the Forests

I have never owned a tree.
None of my people 
has ever owned a tree-
though my family's life-path winds
over centuries' blue heights
of forest.

Forest in storm,
forest in calm-
forest, forest, forest,
through all the years.

My people
were always a poor people.
Children of life's
hard, iron-frosted nights.

Strangers own the trees,
and the soil,
                     the stone-heaped soil
my father cleared
by the light of the moon's lamp.

with smooth faces
and pretty hands
and their car always waiting
outside the door.

None of my people
has ever owned a tree.
And yet we own the forests
by our blood's red right.

Rich man,
you with the car and the bankbook
and stock in Borregaard timber company:
you can buy a thousand acres of forest,
and a thousand acres more,
but you can't buy the sunset
or the whisper of the wind
or the joy of walking homeward
when the heather blooms along the path-

No, we own the forests,
the way a child owns its mother.

-Hans Børli 
From We Own the Forest and other Poems.
Translated by Louis Muinzer

All photos by Niina