Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
May 2021
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Tuesday, 18. March 2008

An Alphabet of Trees

"Just as the trees here are all naked and strange,
the heart wonders if she is his or some others'?"

  • Anand's Hindustani sher, imperfectly recalled

Why was knowledge first plucked
(also why by the woman and not the man?)
from a tree, and not instead from
a rock, or a river, or a star?

When I came here, to a strange country,
I couldn't name any of the trees until
my heart became a graveyard, and as markers
for memory, I began naming the trees.

This is how I learned the flames
of my first fall were from a grove
of sugar maples. Later, I wrote hungry
poems on the gold of beech leaves,

and hid them in books I gave to her,
that woman who perched high above
any tree. Dogwoods covered me with
their kind shade as summer flared

and splattered my interior landscape
with betrayal's ash. More years
of education followed. I learned
under sumacs, cottonwoods, magnolias

as others (gulmohars mainly) kept
receding in the rear view mirrors
of years' shuttles. I have forgotten
what the flowers on her green skirt

were, she who sang to me? And I have
forgotten even more of her, she whose
eyes were the color of early spring.
So as I am learning to love again

under the mossy branches of live oaks,
I know there is no telling what fates have
planned for me and this avenue of trees.
Will I ever wake to rain one night, many years

hence, like a man hungry for the knowledge
(again, why did it have to come from a tree?)
of a known world, and reach for the body
of my beloved as if she were a tree that
always stood in the center of my heart?

Note: Image borrowed from here

My Poems

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Your rendition of my sher is beautiful.

The original was
Is sheher ke sab darakht hain nange, ajnabi
Aur yeh bharosa bhi nahin ke aaap mere hain

which i would render -
All the trees of this city are naked, strangers.
And not even the belief that you are mine.

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