Today I saw a tree in a northern park

Today I saw a tree in a northern park
that slanted out as though it thought
to breach the blue horizon.

A mighty lean for a madroña,
but unknown for a white pine—
an arc-boutant of imperfection.

It was a lonely tree.
A price it paid in failing the upright
company of other trees.

It did not tower or scrape the sky
as is said of grand trees.
It did not triumph over forces

that kept it lean-limbed and low.
Prostrate, its keeling crown
an uncertain compass,

weaved elliptic O’s, and silent Om’s
the semaphore of yearning,
the defying of impasse.

By the will of wind it moaned
a beggars hymn. Bow-bent
toward hell, it did not despair.

I imagined praying roots like great
hands spanned toward the arctic.
And restive roots that felt far

into the flesh of earth,
picking up the tremolo of palmetto.
As though hearing a faint voice

it hungered to lean
farther, still farther,
and touch the Southern Cross.



  1. Stephen, this is so lovely. I just helped run a nature journaling workshop and one of the key points we emphasized was how to observe, really observe things in nature. And if you do, everything has a story to tell us. You are a master at observing and hearing those stories.

    With this poem, I started out feeling sad for this “lonely tree”, but ended up with a sense of hope that it really had a purpose. What a metaphor for many of us this tree can be.

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