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Acting Like A Tree

December 18, 2008

When reading The New Yorker, I must admit that I often skip over the poetry. Poetry has never been my thing. I just don’t feel the same confidence approaching a poem that I feel when confronted with prose. However, while reading an article about Mikheil Saakashvili I stopped and read the inserted poem, “Acting Like A Tree” by Jonathan Aaron, and felt that I must share it.

Acting Like A Tree

When I got to the party and saw everybody

walking around in Christmas costumes,

I remembered I was supposed to be wearing one, too.

Bending slightly, I held out my hands

and waved them a little, wiggling my fingers.

I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips, making

a tree face, and started slowly hopping on one foot,

then the other, the way I imagine trees do

in the forest when they’re not being watched.

Maybe people would take me for a hemlock,

or a tamarack. A little girl disguised as an elf

looked at me skeptically. Oh, come on!

her expression said. You call that acting like a tree?

Behind her I could see a guy in a reindeer suit

sitting down at the piano. As he hit the opening

chords of “Joy to the World” I closed my eyes

and tried again. This time I could feel the wind

struggling to lift my boughs, which were heavy

with snow. I was clinging to a mountain crag

and could see over the tops of other trees a few late-

afternoon clouds and the thin red ribbon of a river.

I smelled more snow in the air. A gust or two whispered

around my neck and face, but by now

all I could hear was the meditative creaking

of this neighbor or that–and a moment later, farther off,

the faint but eager call of a wolf.

-Jonathan Aaron

This poem strikes me as perfect for the season. Reading this poem, I can feel the awkwardness of being costumeless, the wind whipping the crag, the gaze of the the disapproving elf-girl–there is an abundance of emotion here, like any good poem. What strikes me is the emancipatory power of imagination, of acting. Through sheer will, the speaker becomes a wind blown tree clinging to a crag, heavy with snow. Ah, the power of language to capture so much with so little.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2008 4:30 pm

    Love that it’s snowing on your blog!

  2. December 18, 2008 5:44 pm

    I love this poem. I can “feel” it, too. Thanks for sharing.

    When I first read the title of your post, I thought it was a witty way to say you were going home for Christmas! You know, “make like a tree and leave . . .” 😀

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