You can read this poem here.
Not many trees in the post ‘Tree’ accompanies; but I just love the way Hirshfield gets ‘immensity’ into the small space of this poem. It does what it says on the tin. There’s something about the poem’s reminder of how the existential and large is always there, a mere membrane away from the prosaic, which fits with the place I’m in right now.
Grief, of course, always invites us to consider the Big Stuff; but I love that fact that, here, immensity taps ‘Softly, calmly’. This is not a crisis point—not a poem about 4 a.m. terror—though there is a certain mild ominousness about the fact that immensity does not have to be urgent. It has all of space and time in which to make itself known. ‘Tree’ offers us a quietly serious recognition of the nature and import of the choices we make in life—how the large so often inheres in the small, and how no one can avoid the big things, even if they choose not to think about them.
This poem feels like a friend willing to sit alongside me and calmly recognise life’s bewildering juxtapositions of ‘immensities’ and ‘clutter’. There’s something utterly non-judgemental about the word ‘foolish’, too: we all let redwoods grow in foolish places, now and again, and are left with ‘hav[ing] to choose’…