Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

"In Praise of Winter Trees"

Bill Brown is a part-time lecturer at Vanderbilt University. He has written four poetry collections, three chapbooks and a textbook. The recipient of many awards and fellowships, Brown lives in the hills of Robertson County with his wife, Suzanne, and a tribe of cats.

In Praise of Winter Trees

A closed heart can’t greet
a winter sky. Even a rain puddle
is filled by it, and a horse trough,
and the slow current of creeks.

Winter trees, sycamore and oak,
reach for the sky to offer praise –
stark, hard praise, born from all
those rooted years of bearing

the sky’s weight. Some nights
an open heart is filled with vast
spaces between stars the mind
can’t grasp. The thought of heaven

is not so much mammothed by
the sky’s grandeur, but mystified
beyond our silly notions. Winter
trees aren’t arrogant; they praise

no flags, no denominations,
they owe allegiance to the soil.
My sister, when she was younger,
awoke in winter to hold her arms

up to the sky, shiver in the wholeness
of it, let shadows of winter trees
dance sunlight across her face.
Oak, beech, sycamore, maple, and gum,

reenact creation, drop their seeds
from the sky, make their homes
in star dust, and reach back
toward heaven. Trees suffer

drought and freezing rain, accept
the annual tilt toward shorter days.
Some ancient hope, like winter light,
is allied with the gravity of stars.

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