Left: Poet Leslie Reed writing on a fence. A staircase is behind her. Right: Picture of some of her fence poems.
Poet Leslie Reed has written more than 60 poems on a fence near Codornices Park in Berkeley since 2019. Courtesy: Leslie Reed

The words for “Whispering Trees” first came to Berkeley resident Leslie Reed during a walk in Codornices Park in November 2019. Hurriedly, she pulled out a ballpoint pen — the only writing tool immediately available — and scrawled the words onto the nearest surface — a large, wooden fence on Tamalpais Path, on the northern edge of the park. 

Graffiti Poetry on Tamalpais Path, Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, Saturday, Oct. 14, 9:30 a.m.

Reed, who has since written more than 60 poems on the fence (with permission from the homeowner), said she first realized her ability to “hear” poems in her head and write them two years prior, while living near the shore in England. Upon returning to bustling Berkeley, her inner voice went quiet for almost a year, she said. But it came back when she was among the trees at the serene Codornices Park.

“Sometimes when I go to the fence, my arm goes up high, which means I know my body is in conjunction with the whole thing and it’s going to be a long poem,” Reed said. “I don’t know what’s coming … I’m just writing what I hear.” 

Topics range from the universal (love, nature) to the deeply personal (learning about a close friend’s cancer diagnosis). It’s a race against time to transcribe everything, Reed said, because the poems quickly disappear. She never leaves the house without a permanent marker. 

This Saturday, Reed will lead a walk with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association that takes you from the Rose Garden, up the Tamalpais Steps, and give a poetry reading at the fence. 

Saturday, Oct. 14, 9:30 a.m. Berkeley Rose Garden. FREE

"*" indicates required fields

See an error that needs correcting? Have a tip, question or suggestion? Drop us a line.

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...