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.
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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