Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly


Richard Schiffman

It can be difficult to get the news from trees.
Canny vegetable sphinxes,
they know so much more than they let on.
Like stones and secret agents,
you can break them with axes,
but they will never spill the beans.

In storms, trees chat up a storm.
It’s all a rustling gibberish meant to confuse you.
In the fall, their parti-coloured leaves are pages
in a book you’ll flip through casually but will not read.
Hug their shag-barked trunks, they won’t hug back.

Trees don’t trust anyone with opposable thumbs.
But it is your feet that truly throw them for a loop.
Where do these drunken monkeys think they’re going?
they grumble through their leaves.

To put a tree at ease, therefore,
sit at its base like some kind of Buddha.
Just sit there until you sink
some roots of your own.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist and author of two biographies. In addition to Queen’s Quarterly, his poems have appeared in the New York Times, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and on the BBC. His latest poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published by Salmon Poetry.