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This poem is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

A Tree's Dying Michael Hamburger

Before six one August morning, the dewfall heavy,
The air still, we are wrenched awake
By a creak and thump that could be
The beams of our house breaking up.
But silence mends: we are safe.
It had happened before, last year:
One of the four great limbs
Of the tall white willow fallen
With all its burden of massed wet leaves;
Then months of labour, of dragging, sawing, chopping
After first aid to the bruised or maimed
Smaller trees it had struck.

Not quite released from the trunk's fork,
Now another sprawls, leans on the bent boughs,
On the snapped, of poplar and birch,
So bulky in ruin, it makes a wall
That, left, would possess, transform
More than the strip it covers; and, willow,
Deny its death, somehow strike root again
From a fibre that loves to live;
Corpse and sapling at once, take over.

And the torso - alive or dead?
Doomed, the remaining two limbs
That, in turn forked, still rise
From the trunk's fork, decayed?

As long as they bear leaves,
We'll not presume, though threatened,
But let their dying be
Slow as the tree's growing
That, halved, still shall stand
And may not thud again
While we, who did not plant it,
Weather-fended, sleep here and wake.

This poem is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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