Learn More

Howard Nemerov

(29 February 1920 – 5 July 1991 / New York City, New York)

Learning by Doing


They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others. Now and then it grunts,
And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
Rotten, they tell us, at the fork, and one
Big wind would bring it down. So what they do
They do, as usual, to do us good.
Whatever cannot carry its own weight
Has got to go, and so on; you expect
To hear them talking next about survival
And the values of a free society.
For in the explanations people give
On these occasions there is generally some
Mean-spirited moral point, and everyone
Privately wonders if his neighbors plan
To saw him up before he falls on them.

Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower
Dismantled in a morning and let down
Out of itself a finger at a time
And then an arm, and so down to the trunk,
Until there's nothing left to hold on to
Or snub the splintery holding rope around,
And where those big green divagations were
So loftily with shadows interleaved
The absent-minded blue rains in on us.
Now that they've got it sectioned on the ground

It looks as though somebody made a plain
Error in diagnosis, for the wood
Looks sweet and sound throughout. You couldn't know,
Of course, until you took it down. That's what
Experts are for, and these experts stand round
The giant pieces of tree as though expecting
An instruction booklet from the factory
Before they try to put it back together.

Anyhow, there it isn't, on the ground.
Next come the tractor and the crowbar crew
To extirpate what's left and fill the grave.
Maybe tomorrow grass seed will be sown.
There's some mean-spirited moral point in that
As well: you learn to bury your mistakes,
Though for a while at dusk the darkening air
Will be with many shadows interleaved,
And pierced with a bewilderment of birds.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Do you like this poem?
3 person liked.
1 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: tree, snow, power, together, green, people, wind, sun

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (Learning by Doing by Howard Nemerov )

Enter the verification code :

There is no comment submitted by members..

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
  2. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  3. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  4. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
  5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  6. Invictus, William Ernest Henley
  7. If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
  8. A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
  9. The Tiger, William Blake
  10. Words mean nothing, Angie Sous

Poem of the Day

poet Li Po

Amongst the flowers I
am alone with my pot of wine
drinking by myself; then lifting
my cup I asked the moon
to drink with me, its reflection
and mine in the wine cup, just
...... Read complete »

   

Member Poem

poet Marvin Brato Sr

New Poems

  1. As a passer-bye, MOHAMMAD SKATI
  2. Love is Blue, Ghana Green Poetry Foundation
  3. Song of Yuletide Night, Sir Toby Moses
  4. Another Jungle Pool, Denis Martindale
  5. Buy Me, My Love, Tom Navarro
  6. Words mean nothing, Angie Sous
  7. Not for his sake ليس من اجله, MOHAMMAD SKATI
  8. Final Destination, Tushar Ray
  9. Our city's curfew, MOHAMMAD SKATI
  10. No regrets, george albot
[Hata Bildir]