Voices

August 27, 2006

Those of us who have planted trees and shrubs know well that moment when the last spadeful of earth is packed around the root ball and patted or stamped into place and we stand back and wish the young plant good fortune. Here the poet Roy Scheele offers us a few well-chosen words we can use the next time. - Ted Kooser

"Planting a Dogwood"

Tree, we take leave of you; you're on your own.

Put down your taproot with its probing hairs

that sluice the darkness and create unseen

the tree that mirrors you below the ground.

For when we plant a tree, two trees take root:

the one that lifts its leaves into the air,

and the inverted one that cleaves the soil

to find the runnel's sweet, dull silver trace

and spreads not up but down, each drop a leaf

in the eternal blackness of that sky.

The leaves you show uncurl like tiny fists

and bear small button blossoms, greenish white,

that quicken you. Now put your roots down deep;

draw light from shadow, break in on earth's sleep.

Ted Kooser was U.S. poet laureate, 2004-2006. First printed in ?From the Ground Up,? Lone Willow Press. Copyright 2000 by Roy Scheele; reprinted by permission of the author

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