For the Macpherson Raymonds
Will you live long enough to sit in the shade
Of that tree, old man? the children asked,
And the old chinaman planting the sapling replied,
This world was not a desert when I came into it.
Now, I myself have raised some thrifty trees
And children, entirely from words,
But it is friends with real trees and children who will become,
Probably, my testimony, my best tongue.
Between trees and children there is a resemblance
and men and women nurture
It by their daily commerce. I want to speak for this
And for all such resemblances, having seen
At this farm, in the act of sunrise
And in certain other acts, incontrovertible evidence
Of something too few people speak of: a benign nature,
Ours, mirrored wherever you look, in past, in future.
Sometimes I think trees are best, sometimes children.
But there is no need to choose, they speak of the same thing:
A continuing kindness in our sap and blood.
What we admire in the green world is a benign selfhood,
And in one another, the ability to speak of this,
Or better, to act it out. What is
The perverse impulse in some men and women
To speak otherwise about themselves or their green lives?
Well, speech is a planting, but not everything thrives.
It would be redundant to bless trees
Or children or anything else on a farm,
But once I fell asleep here listening to the dawn
Wind blessing the trees, and it came into my mind
(Maybe no language can relinquish this pun-
First the trees, then animals were saying it to the sun)
To be of our own nature is what it means to be kind.
From the book: Earth Walk: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith
Copyright: 1970 by William Meredith
author bio: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/william-meredith
photo: poetry foundation