The Horse Chestnut Tree

Isolated, featured, important trees are the markers of human history, of human genesis and regeneration: the centers of the stories we tell over generations. They are the stakes around which the seasons turn (the maypole and the Christmas tree for example), and for Christians the stanchion of salvation. Here’s another chestnut tree poem. The poet,  Richard Eberhart, whose life spanned the 20th century, shows generational roles changing in the shade of a great, impassive tree.

The Horse Chesnut Tree

Boys in sporadic but tenacious droves
Come with sticks, as certainly as Autumn,
To assault the great horse chestnut tree.

There is a law governs their lawlessness.
Desire is in them for a shining amulet
And the best are those that are highest up.

They will not pick them easily form the ground.
With shrill arms they fling to the higher branches,
To hurry the work of nature for their pleasure.

I have seen them trooping down the street
Their pockets stuffed with chestnuts shucked, unshucked.
It is only evening keeps them from their wish.

Sometimes I run out in a kind of rage
To chase the boys away; I catch an arm,
Maybe, and laugh to think of being the lawgiver.

I was once such a young sprout myself
And fingered in my pocket the prize and trophy.
But still I moralize upon the day

And see that we, outlaws on God’s property,
Fling out imagination beyond the skies
Wishing a tangible good from the unknown.

And likewise death will drive us from the scene
With the great flowering world unbroken yet,
Wich we held in idea, a little handful.

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