Sunday, December 14, 2008

Acting Like a Tree

I haven't seen many Christmas poems, but I found one here in The New Yorker. At times, I do enjoy a down-to-earth poem that isn't TOO difficult to understand, even though this does get a little more sophisticated towards the end.

Maybe this poem will appear to those who don't really do the traditional poems or who hate to read a poem and have absolutely no idea as to what's going on. And, if you love Christmas, this one is for you.

Acting Like a Tree
by Jonathan Aaron

When I got the party and saw everybody
walking around in Christmas costumes,
I remembered I was supposed to be wearing one, too.
Bending slightly, I held out my hands
and waved them a little, wiggling my fingers.
I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips, making
a tree face, and started slowly hopping on one foot,
then the other, the way I imagine trees do
in the forest when they're not being watched.
Maybe people would take me for a hemlock,
or a tamarack. A little girl disguised as an elf
looked at me skeptically. Oh, come on!
her expression said. You call that acting like a tree?
Behind her I could see a guy in a reindeer suit
sitting down at the piano. As he hit the opening
chords of "Joy to the World" I closed my eyes
and tried again. This time I could feel the wind
struggling to lift my boughs, which were heavy
with snow. I was clinging to a mountain crag
and could see over the tops of the other trees a few late-
afternoon clouds and the thin red ribbon of a river.
I smelled more snow in the air. A gust or two whispered
around my neck and face, but by now
all I could hear was the meditative creaking
of this neighbor or that--and a moment later, farther off,
the faint but eager call of a wolf.

What do you make of this poem? First we are at a Christmas party and everything seems to be very silly. He is being imaginative as an adult, and the child is the most skeptical, which is strange because children are supposed to have imaginations. Perhaps they are being lost, especially around this time with the spirit of Christmas, or lack thereof.

Then he seriously imagines being a tree and what that's like, and then it ends. He loses himself in the moment and can seriously envision himself as this nonliving being. He sympathizes with the tree, the being that is killed off during this holiday. Almost like taking the side of the turkey during Thanksgiving. Is that the comment they are looking for here?

Or, is it more comical that one can imagine more what an elf would be like than a tree even though elves are fake and trees are real? And reindeers too. This whole thing is made up, sort of a fantasy we reenact every year, yet the child is skeptical of the tree? Not the elf or the reindeer? I don't know.

What do you make of this poem "Acting Like a Tree?"

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