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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Poem: 233 words
By Ruth Weinstein

The Poet in the Trees

—For Robbi Nester
If I were half my age, I would claw at botany, 
hungry as a spring-awakened bear, 
and fill notebooks with grubs of knowledge. 
I would tie scholasticism to trees, become 
an arborist like Calvino’s baron, living leafy 
dreams in lofty canopies, viewing the whole 
of trees. Then I could be less chary than the 
poet who urges such pruning of my poems 
to leave them bare as goat-stripped argan trees. 
From elbow-deep in my bag of modifiers I’d 
pull adjectives, paste them on every branch, 
as kindergartners glue dead-green construction-
paper shapes to crayoned-brown trunks. Gleefully, 
I’d touch tactile descriptors, grow kinesthetic verbs, 
mark distinguishing adverbs plain as board feet. 
My chains of relative clauses would link 
all the whiches one could know about trees: 
quantify and qualify from species to catkins. 
With intimacy of xylem, phloem, and cambium, 
with transpiration and teeming life below ground 
in wise communities of microbiology, I’d describe 
mycelia, mycorrhizae, a whole world of insect life, 
blind tunnelers, life-giving decay and procreation. 
Expert from crown to roots, ecstatic in all things tree. 
I would embellish my forests and lawns with words 
snipped from fabric, words my fingers hear 
in symphonic braille—indulgences granted arborists, 
denied poets, who thrive on ambiguities, 
on questions and answers from different seas, 
on caesuras in mythic forests, hourly recreated. 

Ruth Weinstein
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

is an octogenarian organic gardener, a textile artist working in various techniques, a poet and non-fiction writer. She, her husband, four aging cats, and a young dog live on their forty-acre, Ozark homestead. Her family history/memoir, Back to the Land: Alliance Colony to the Ozarks in Four Generations, was published by Stockton University Press in February 2020. In it she traces the links between her maternal ancestors, who were pioneers in the establishment of America’s first successful, Jewish agricultural community in 1882 in southern New Jersey, to her own life as a back-to-the-lander for the past fifty years. She urges those interested in reading it to contact her via Facebook rather than buy it from Amazon.

Her ten-poem chapbook, The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey, is the 2022 third-place winner of the Miriam Rachimi Micro-Chapbook Competition, sponsored by Poetica Publishing. Her poem “(His Mother Said) She Was Eating Cherries” was nominated for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Anthology in 2022 by the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences’ literary journal, Medicine and Meaning, where it was first published.

Ruth’s poems have been published in print and online journals, but she admits to an appallingly minimal social media presence. She can, however, be found on Facebook.

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