A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Long Late Poem for Arbor Day

“The whole bough bending then springing back as if from sudden sight” – Jorie Graham, “Self-Portrait as the Gesture Between Them [Adam and Eve]” from The End of Beauty

But the other tree—the Tree of Life—wasn’t surprised at all.  
  It bent
its lowest limb (the one the boy’d been swinging)
                                                                                    and relented. 

We two found it there after Hurricane Sandy:
great, grey and ashen, as the charred head of a dragon.
I remembered the spot because for yards round no other trees grew tall.
I thought the little roots were choked out
and that was how life gave way to life. 
Now I know
the bigger roots play surrogate parent to so many unmeasured things: 
the dark durance of my backyard.

What really happened is
      the limb broke like a bone. 
It happened suddenly, but with much warning.    
      It didn’t give in; it gave out.
It broke like a bone and swung once or twice and fell and soaked up rain.

There was no boy until the next day, and his mother didn’t let him swing on it, for fear of what it would do.  (I, too, keep my distance.)

Meanwhile the tree rots from the inside.
Meanwhile furry things find out.
Meanwhile fungi take root.
Meanwhile the order of things upsets.

The dead wood releases carbon one billion times slower than fire.
The big tree is dying one billion times faster than it grew.
And one billion times faster than it will grow again, if by some miracle
            it outpaces the developers that lie in wait,
already sharpening their eyes.


  1. This one needs work. Someone help me write a poem from the perspective of the Tree of Life, the one that Adam and Eve weren't told about. I've been thinking about Milton so much, today in conversation I said "Milton" instead of "Melville."

  2. I changed it a little bit. Am I allowed to do that?

  3. ha ha, I vote that you are allowed to do it!!! this poem is marvelous.