Too Slightly Timbered
Pine forests. The
red men knew them:
Larches and Tamarack across the northern lakes,
White Pine, Red Cedar Pine, Spruce and Balsam,
Tall Douglas Fir and the majestic Norway,
One wooded fastness from Superior to the frontier.
interlarded with Birch:
Blue Birch, White, Yellow, Canoe and River Birch,
Hornbeam, Ironwood and Alder shrub,
Red, White and Speckled, crowded the moist marges
Of ten thousand lakes, chain on chain.
Along the St. Croix
and west, the American Elm,
Lord of the plains, rose up in endless woods
Like vaulted sanctuaries, cathedrals of soft shade;
Slippery Elm, Rock Elm and the banquet place
Of songbirds, the silver-fruited Hackberry.
The Beeches grew
there too, shoulder to shoulder:
Single season White Oak and biennial Black,
Fat, shaggy-acorned Bur Oak, Swamp Oak and the Northern Red.
And in the south the fields were clogged with maples
Sugar, Black, Red, Silver, and Mountain Maples,
The glory of autumn,
Moosewood and the cool Boxelder.
Willows lined the rivers too: Bigtooth and
Quaking Aspen along the Pigeon up to Rainy Lake,
And by the Crow, the Minnesota River, and the Red,
Black Willow, Crack Willow, Sandbar, Peachleaf,
And the oriental
Weeping Willow of Biblical renown
That wept by the waters of Babylon when exiles wept in psalm,
And huge Cottonwoods, the settlers' best windbreak;
And all the richer, rarer grains in plentiful supply:
Black Walnut, Butternut, and the sour Swamp Hickory;
Varieties of Olive:
Red Ash, Blue Ash, White;
Basswood and the flowering, sweet-honey Linden
That perfume the summer night;
Choke Cherry, Wild-Black, Pin Cherry, Plum;
Serviceberry, Hawthorn, Mountain Ash and Apple
The Smooth and
Staghorn Sumac (Cashews);
And the lone Horsechestnut tree.
The lone Horsechestnut, most missed by summer boys,
Whose fruit was diamonds in my barefoot days.
Nearly all gone now.
Blasted by a cold,
hard easter out of Europe,
More waves of driven exiles
Too slightly timbered for so loud a wind
Whose sorrow altered to a brimming disbelief
At the wealth befallen them
And hardened to cold incomprehension,
A blue-ox, whirlwind of tree plunderers
Wrapped in a timberman cult.