Of Prayer and Poetry

Impossible it seems, it may yet be:
certainly, I am a tree—
a tree among a world of trees
on lands that live between the seas,
and each a little place to fill,
a forest, dale, or on a hill.
Some are given to live by streets
or mark the place where one road meets

               Other trees live just to shade
a playground, park bench, or a glade;
still others gather into crowds
and live in forests ‘neath the clouds,
to make adventure of out places
otherwise just empty spaces.

I’ve never known a tree reproved—
though many trees have been removed—
for growing up where its seed fell;
nor ever known a man to tell
a tree, “You should be so much more—
not taking space outside my door—
another greater space to fill:
some princely park, some noble hill,
a royal road, a kingly gate.
You, poor old tree, could be great.”

Every tree grows where it was sown,
content to call a little space its own,
nor pass furtive hours with worry
that they fill a place of hurry
(some urban spot) than quiet woods
or near a stream where limbs, like hoods,
hang tenderly.
                         So why do I
worry so much, and ever try
to fill some greater space than this,
supposing it will bring me bliss,
compare myself to other men
and wish myself like them, when
in their own space they are consumed
by that glory which they assume
others have reached, but not themselves.

Determinedly, my conscience delves
to the deep place where root meets soil
and am content—in human toil—
to fill the spot allotted me:
not extend my span but tend to space,
nurture and feed with tender grace
that in the end men would remark
(not great words) how, like faithful bark
upon a tree well grown, I grew.
How in my shade the birds oft flew
and found solace from cold or heat;
how comfort found those at my feet,
whether to sit and rest or stand
to think alone, or in a band,
how dreamers climbed from trunk to top
searching the horizon and stop
only when tender limbs could bear
their weight no more.
                                        How great a care
was shown those with any need
generously; and without greed
given forth like heavenward prayers
whate’er I could to meet their cares:
to keep one warm—my limbs for fire;
for the poet—to inspire;
to shade the aged—every leaf
spread out to offer some relief.

That every child who feigns to play
may oft be known and heard to say:
“Ring, O ring, around the rosy.
Pocket full of colored posy.
Ashes to dust and dust ashes:
day is o’er when daylight passes.”
For others still, I’ll be a base
for them to run when in a race
or stand like Father’s Apple Tree
above the sound, “You can’t catch me.”

When life is spent, and branches die,
whenever my limbs and trunk lie
rotting, then let me fill a space
within a simple fireplace.
And on the wood that marks my grave,
let them carve, “Here lies one who gave
his everything for God and King,
taking what he’ven will let him bring:
people loved and friendships made;
sweet memories, and prayers once prayed,
and fading lines of poetry
once written, but now long forgot. “

And near the place where I will lay
let them plant a tree that day
to mark the space of life gone by
until, someday, it too will die.

For strange though it seems, yet certainly:
I am a tree.

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