Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
March 2024
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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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