"The Man Tree"
"The Man Tree"
A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 7 2010 6:55 AM

"The Man Tree"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Stanley Moss read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

The man who walks through a field in December
wears a blue suit, but above his shoulders
where his head and neck should be,
an apple tree grows
stripped of its leaves by winter.
The suit he wears makes him seem human
but his branches reaching up and outward,
higher than any man, make him arboreal.
Tears flow from under his jacket
and out of his pockets, like a stream in a forest.
The man blooms in summer, bears fruit.
The tree walks through a field of hay and wild flowers
to the beat of "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
He is not as patient as the mountain.
The man tree never sings,
"My river, My waterfall."
A nightingale never sings proudly:
"My … My …" except perhaps its love song.
A hawk calls, "I have my work to do,"
but when the work is done, to sing "It's all mine,"
is why death was invented.
Look, lift off your fig leaf,
though innocent as an infant's lips,
what's underneath is not yours—
the fig leaf is yours.
Under the man tree a mother sings for a time,
"My child, my child."
Inland, far inland, the mountain hears
frogs in the marsh
calling for the mud of heaven.


Stanley Moss will publish God Breaketh Not All Men's Hearts Alike: Later Collected Poems in 2011.