On “Trees”

This is MoPoWriMo (Mormon Poem Writing Month), organized by a well-known LDS poet and supported by 132 writers, some of whom do write a poem a day in February and some who don’t. The writing is excellent, mostly by those who are not me.

Late last evening, I asked the second oldest of the Taylor Demolition and Wake-up Service for help. Just a word can spark an idea. A spark can spark an idea. Anyway, of all the words he could have chosen, he offered one within 3 seconds, with a bit of a smile, that I did in fact write about, though it was quite the humbling experience. The oldest of the Service (without immediate benefit of the original poem) allowed that my effort was, and I quote, amazing.

The CEO had already gone to sleep, or I might have had another prompt. To catch up on him, a brief exchange: If I don’t hear the toilet flush, I’ll remind him with a “flush the toilet.” Recently, he said, “I always do, Grandma, thanks to your persistent reminding.” Another of them said something virtually identical about handwashing, but it didn’t seem so final.

A poem doesn’t have links, but blogs do. Needed, I think, for clarity. In addition, per a response to my poem, someone said he’d never read it though he knew the famous couplet. I’m expecting knowing it for so long means that I read it a very long time ago.


On “Trees”


“Give me a word prompt for a poem,”

I ask the precocious teen.


I sigh. He’s being funny.

“Oh no,” says I. “There is one already.”

The dad says, “Why’d you ask if you aren’t…”


“I have always hated it.”

They listen to my poor reading—

The last couplet is famous:

“Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

They shrug, say nothing.

Rabbit holing, I learn:

Joyce Kilmer insisted on fighting in WWI

And died. As did so many. No Dulce, the old Lie.


The poem is widely parodied (I knew)

But was set to music by Oscar Rasbach

And sung seriously by Patti Page

And Paul Robeson in his exquisite bass,

Available on YouTube. I still don’t…

Writer/critic Guy Davenport said,

“(It’s) the one poem known by practically


Turns out Davenport was brilliant; he wrote

J.R.R. Tolkien’s obituary for National Review.

So, humbled, I must repent. It rather stings. Here’s why:

I must meet Joyce Kilmer in heaven and apologize.

I must read more Tolkien and Pound (Davenport’s friend, our Dante).

I must try (for the millionth time) to think before I speak.

What I do know, and did before I asked that question of the teen,

Is simply this:

I shall never make a poem

As rich in history

As “Trees” or

Known by practically everybody.