Monday, October 20, 2014

Howard Nemerov: "Trees"

To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one's own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;
To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,
One's Being deceptively armored,
One's Becoming deceptively vulnerable;
To be so tough, and take the light so well,
Freely providing forbidden knowledge
Of so many things about heaven and earth
For which we should otherwise have no word—
Poems or people are rarely so lovely,
And even when they have great qualities
They tend to tell you rather than exemplify
What they believe themselves to be about,
While from the moving silence of trees,
Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,
Night and day, we draw conclusions of our own,
Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath
And perilous also—though there has never been
A critical tree—about the nature of things.

"Trees" by Howard Nemerov, from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. © University of Chicago Press, 1981.

My thanks to an anonymous visitor to our website for suggesting this poem.

Art credit: "Wind Tree," photograph by Richard Alois. Caption: "A tree torn and formed by the ever blowing at Seven Sisters in UK."


  1. Thanks for the web site and the poem. It was supposedly written on her birthdate - and her demeanor is well described by these words...Sarah Hamilton

    1. I'm not sure who the "her" is. Can you clarify please?


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