That Famous Tree Poem is not What I Thought

On my walk this morning, I noticed that all the trees in my neighborhood are full of leaves now. I don’t know the names of all of them, but my crepe myrtle’s spindly branches are now fully covered.

 

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I don’t know if it is my imagination, but if trees really do help with oxygenating the air, then I got a good dose this morning. Maybe it is the drenching we’ve received from the El Niño rains, because from the thickness of leaves on branches, summer is near. Breathe deep their gift of clean air, O Southern California!

In thinking about all the trees I pass by and walk under in my neighborhood, I remembered the first line of this well-known poem:“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree…” But I could not go on, so I looked it up. I was very surprised by the rest of it, part prayer/part tree as source of life. And I don’t think I realized it was so old. It is very touching.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, 
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918