Other Ways to Communicate: Ashbery’s “Some Trees”

Other Ways to Communicate: Ashbery's "Some Trees" 2
Nadia Colburn // February 12, 2019 // 0 Comments

It’s a gray February Thursday as I sit here writing, looking out the window to the dark tree branches arching out against the sky. When I was younger, growing up in New York City, I couldn’t see the beauty of winter. But then one day I looked at the bare trees and could see their unadorned splendor, too; trees don’t need their leaves to be majestic.

In my Monday morning poetry class this week, I taught John Ashbery’s early poem “Some Trees,” and I thought I’d share it with you today.

The poem reminds us of that trees are amazing; that physical being is amazing; that “merely being here/means something”; that we are “surrounded” by beauty and “comeliness.”

The poem isn’t easy; it wants instead to get beneath language to a more intuitive tree-like way of communicating. It invites you to let go of the tight grasp on logical “understanding” and to follow its flow.

“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.

The poem, published in Ashbery’s first book, in 1956, is also an expression of the gay love written in a time when such love needed “reticence” as a “defense.” The poem is a moving example of the many different forms of communication that we can use–in language, in our bodies, in and through energy itself.

We all communicate in so many different ways.

The poem also reminds me of the bravery of so many people, across generations, who have broken down barriers and made freedoms of expression and of being greater for us all. I feel grateful.

I hope you enjoy the poem! And I hope you take a moment, if you feel called, and jot down something of your own–what are you called to say today?

As always, please share this post and poems with any friends who might enjoy it!

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