Learn More

Howard Nemerov

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

Learning the Trees


Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That's done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves –
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform –
And their venation – palmate and parallel –
And tips – acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, "an average leaf."

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it's not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretious says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it.

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: funny, tree, silence, nature, world

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 the Trees by Howard Nemerov )

Enter the verification code :

  • Rookie - 631 Points Leslie Sharp (8/29/2014 7:43:00 AM)

    Very twisted poem, I like it! It would be hard for some due to the words of course that is what the poem was relating to books and learning, if you dig deep enough it even talks about where the paper comes from lol. It reminds me of one I have written, however, I cannot get in to share any of my poems! I do have a couple on my web-site feel free to come by and read them. Thank you! My poems all start with To Love
    http: //mischievousangels.weebly.com/ (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mary Elizabeth Frye
  2. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  3. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  4. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
  5. A Smile To Remember, Charles Bukowski
  6. Winter Solstice, Jacqueline C Nash
  7. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  8. Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
  9. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  10. No Man Is An Island, John Donne

Poem of the Day

poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A little while a little love
The hour yet bears for thee and me
Who have not drawn the veil to see
If still our heaven be lit above.
Thou merely, at the day's last sigh,
...... Read complete »

   

New Poems

  1. Are You Okay?, Michael P. McParland
  2. Are You Mad At Me?, Michael P. McParland
  3. Anyone But You?, Michael P. McParland
  4. Another Year, Michael P. McParland
  5. Another Wish, Michael P. McParland
  6. Cop Killers and Killer Cops, Is It Poetry
  7. Another Night (Off To Sleep), Michael P. McParland
  8. Another Day, Michael P. McParland
  9. Hands on Hips, Mae AC.
  10. Hands in Pockets, Mae AC.
[Hata Bildir]