Howard Nemerov


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.

To D-, Dead by Her Own Hand

My dear, I wonder if before the end
You ever thought about a children’ s game —
I’ m sure you must have played it too — in which
You ran along a narrow garden wall
Pretending it to be a mountain ledge
So steep a snowy darkness fell away
On either side to deeps invisible;
And when you felt your balance being lost
You jumped because you feared to fall, and thought