Pamela Ybañez,  Re-created Forest 3 , 2016.

Pamela Ybañez, Re-created Forest 3, 2016.

From The Ashbery Riff-Offs by Eileen R. Tabios                                                                                                                 —where each poem begins with 1 or 1-2 lines from “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” by John Ashbery


Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: For the Dreamers
After Pamela Ybanez’s “Re-created Forest 3” (2016)

Why be unhappy with this arrangement, since
dreams prolong us as they are absorbed? 
It’s tough to let go of trees—innocent as six-
year-olds brought by parents or other guardians
smuggling them and stuffed animals to a new
country. Today, they huddle under a concrete
bridge that deceived by implying Paradise—or
the opposite of malnutrition—exists in the other
side. Instead, they were led to a future with
an expiration date. Christmas is over, but no
forest survives for their return. Poor trees—they
dream of green even as their limbs curl into
brownness. An unseasonal song wafts down
to their new concrete house: “I’m dreaming
of a White Christmas / Just like the ones I used
to know / Where the treetops glisten and children
listen / To hear sleigh bells in the snow…” Trees
battle adverse climate change—they absorb CO2
to remove and store carbon while releasing oxygen
back into the environment. Trees clean the air—
they absorb odors and pollutant gases like sulfur
and ozone. Trees provide a canopy and habitat
for wildlife—they offer homes for birds, bees, and
possums. Trees shield citizens from ultra-violet
rays—they reduce UV-B exposure to help deny
skin cancer. Even their image offers benefits—
studies show that patients with tree views out their
windows heal faster and with less complications
For those who absorb them, trees prolong, not just
life, but a healthier life. Snow, however, is unreliable—
they are ever ready to flee from the ubiquitous sun
Why force on trees a song written to comfort those                                                                                                                                                                                                                             enmeshed in World War II—humans are their own
worst enemies for rarely realizing, We need not be
at war!
Why make trees shrivel from a song that ends
by limiting the definition of Beauty until it loses its ideal
to become unreal: “may all your Christmases be white…”


(Quotes are from lyrics to “White Christmas” written by Irving Berlin)

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Inventor of the poetry form “hay(na)ku,” she has been translated into eight languages. She also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 12 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays as well as served as editor or guest editor for various literary journals.


Pamela Ybañez is an Oakland-based artist who works in photography, curation, and social engagement projects. Her art deals with personal and social investigations as a way to discuss existing societal conditions around inequality and identity. She is the founder of the Bay Area Filipino American artist collective Epekto Art Projects. Her most recent curation projects include SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco and Wailoa Art Center in Hilo, Hawaii. She has exhibited her work nationwide including at Hallwalls, Site:Brooklyn, East Hawaii Cultural Center, ProArts, and Kearny Street Workshop.