Monday, October 28, 2013

ModPo 2013 #50 Fire Trees a Tribute to Ashbery's Some Trees

Image of fire trees from

John Ashbery, "Some Trees"

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

This one was really beautiful. Some lines I wrote after reading the text and before listening to the video discussion: It sounds like something out of science fiction. That trees have something to say. That these connections are there. That movement might be a dream or an illusion and it is stillness that is life.

I actually find the presence of trees very comforting. I used to live across my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila and I would find myself crossing Katipunan Avenue just to be alone with the trees. I felt less alone when I was with the trees. I'd spend a lot of mornings just walking along the tree-lined paths and then ending my walk in a small pond and watch the water lilies. So I get what Ashbery is saying.

From the video discussion, I loved the description of the progression from touch to love to explain. Explain isn't a natural conclusion from touch and love. But to make language the highest level of communication is just beautiful.

I also liked the discussion on the ars poetica of the poem. "These accents seem their own defense." These "chorus of smiles" that refer to both the trees and the poem. That's just so lovely!

Fire Trees

There is no autumn here: but
fire gathers on the ground,
as if mourning were superfluous.
We did not arrange

To meet here as far as this morning
as I remember
anything, you and I
are already what the trees

Have already shed:
Flowers belong to seasons,
Don't mean anything: that
yesterday we may have touched

But love is no explanation. The
trees are on fire. And not us:
A silence already watered with tears
A blankness from which

The wind connects summers, rain,
moving light, swaying sound,
our embraces put on such insignificance.
These leaves seem their only defense.


I really don't know what I was trying to do here. Only a tribute to such a great poet and also an elegy to ended relationships. And also about language and trees and what we can learn from them.

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