Tree Poetry

Cutting Trees

the pine beetle
having done its work
what’s left is ours

we chop down dozens
of lodgepole pines
hack at thin trunks

until stumps remain.
silence surrounds us
no slim shafts

clack in the wind
no branches
whisper green secrets

plenty of pines left

I scan the mountainside
thousands of brown trees
lean against living green

The mountain breathes
encircles both
with winnowing grace

by Maril Crabtree,
Previously published in Imagine and Earth’s Daughters.


Now I turn aside to see
tongues of fire on the maple tree.
Leaves of red, touched with gold
the descending Spirit — stop! Behold!

Of the 70 years we’re told God gives
I’ve less than 20 left to live.
Yet too often days slide past
like trees seen from a car, rushing fast.

Let me among the maples stand
with autumn glory on each hand.
The fiery splendor of these hours
surpasses springtime’s snowy flowers.

By Anne L. Haehl

Taking Down the Locust

If the builder hadn’t
planted it there
in the first place —
too close to the house
and right over
a terra cotta
sewer line —
we wouldn’t be doing
this today, deconstructing
the locust limb
by limb, but we are —

Paul Bunyan with
a chainsaw has just scaled
its height, and is lopping
off arms, legs, letting
them drop to the drive
where his buddy
feeds them to the shredder,
turns them into mulch.
When only the trunk is left,
he slices thick segments,
tosses them in the truck.
Maybe they’ll warm
someoneā€™s February nights.

But now what remains
is what’s not there —
the double-compound leaves
that filtered July suns,
the shower of gold
on the driveway each October.
The pool of shade.
What remains
is a tree of air,
where no wrens scold and scold
in the highest branches
that the wind doesn’t toss,
where the sun doesn’t set
down its burden of light,

where there is no black net
to snatch the moon
as it flutters by.

by Barbara Crooker,
Previously published in Parting Gifts.

The Presence of Trees

by Michael S. Glaser

I have always felt the living presence
of trees

the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,

as though the woods were marrow of my bone
as though

I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one

deep in these woods,
that calls

that whispers home


I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

From Trees by W. S. Merwin, from The Compass Flower. © Macmillan Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission. (Buy now.)