Tuesday, November 23, 2021


 American Sycamore

I wish I knew more about trees

Could differentiate an oak from an elm

By sight.  Like a child, I know deciduous

From pine. I know the white bark

Of the birch. But that’s the extent of it

I suppose I could look it

All up.  Get a copy of “Field

Guide to the Trees of Ohio”.

But that would be cheating.  

And all those poems littered 

With sugar maples and chestnuts

Would be pretentious fakes.

I always run up against

The limits of language 

With regard to specificity.

For instance, who exactly

Am I? What phony appellation should

I conjure for proper designation? 

You can’t just answer “human”.  

Without people assuming

You’re being an ass.

All I know of the wind is how

It sways my trunk and limbs,

Sifting leaves loose 

Again and again,

Which I used to experience

As crushing loss until I realized

They always grew back.

All I feel of the sun

Is the coolness of my own shade.

The rain, I simply accept.  

I don’t know that I am like any of the others,

Massed in hushed unexplored 

Forests, pegged to ruddy hills,

Enduring as long as allowed,

Winter lashed by needled sleet,

Summer breezes winding past 

Us like timid women stealthily

Slipping out of a crowded party.

Unseen, unstudied


I can just call myself “American Sycamore”

As if that will change anything.

Or “Heart That Swells and Splits Its Seams”.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s just a comforting sound

That you can hear in the 

Soughing of a thousand million 

Leaves on faraway rustic hills.

It isn’t just the wind, though,

But the desperate whisperings

Of all our wished for names.


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