Dendrology, Maura High

Dale Champlin, Silver Boot 2, Collage, 2021



The jitterbugging leaves
in the crown,

the leaf that falls

and drifts into the current.
How long do you need

to see a tree,

the distance it travels
beyond root and seeds,

all the before and after.

An ironwood, for example,
on the washed-out bank of Bolin Creek,

its spindly, irregular branches

and few leaves:
hop hornbeam, river tree,

tool wood, hubs and handles,

wood like the thin ropy arms,
of a carpenter, sleeves rolled up,

the one who called it

the prettiest wood he’d ever used,
and maybe the biggest

sonofabitch to work.

A tree lays down a long shadow;
once you step in,

there’s no leaving it.

Maura High


Review by Robert Nisbet

“Dendrology” blends natural and human worlds in the most attractive way of all. Again the strength of the tree world is rendered through detail, graphic and tactile. Then, through the lovely image of the “thin ropy arms” of the carpenter, all are linked: the carpenter, the pretty wood, the “sonofabitch”, and the shadow over-arching them.


Review by Paul Willis

Dendrology, I am told, is the study of trees.  “How long do you need / to see a tree?”  Forever, it would seem.  Fortunately, we have that long.  “A tree lays down a long shadow; / once you step in, // there’s no leaving it.”


Review by Jared Pearce

Trees, because they’re so utterly alien against us humans, are wonderful.  I like this poem’s work to call us to gratitude, both for those weird creatures that root and tower, that are so lovely and so difficult, and for those who strive to master those creatures.  It’s taken me some time to try to come to terms with trees, and the final image here of the “long shadow” where “there’s no leaving it” is, for my experience, quite true.  Also, I think the pun in the last line is subtle enough to be a real kick.

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