On Killing A Tree Poem by Gieve Patel

On Killing A Tree

Rating: 3.9

It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out -
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out - snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

(From POEMS, published by Nissim Ezekiel, Bombay 1966)

Susan Williams 19 January 2016

I really didn't find any sarcasm as one commentator did. To me, the poet laid out before us the scientific nature of a tree and how it cannot be cut down and then turns to how it can be done. By that time, this reader was flinching. Trees leave a mammoth hole in our landscape and indeed in the environment in general when they are removed- and it makes me sad, dang it. I must have a tree-hugger hiding in my heart.

30 7 Reply
Kathan Bandyopadhyay 01 December 2014

it is a sarcastic poem and perhaps the best best comment on the major environmental issue of the earth

10 10 Reply
Gangadharan Nair Pulingat 19 January 2016

Trees are so important to the earth and its climate cutting and removing trees makes the earth so disturbed and the life existence and oxygen and water generation is also in danger.

11 7 Reply
Rajnish Manga 19 January 2016

The poet deals with the subject right from how the growth of a tree takes place, attempt to bring it down and finally to murder it owing to the greed of man. Thanks.

7 6 Reply
Kim Barney 19 January 2016

My first reaction was 'Why would anyone want to kill a tree? ' But then I remembered that I have a pine tree growing too close to my house, and this summer it will have to come out.

5 7 Reply
Pranav 14 June 2021


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Naman singh 15 May 2021

Good poem

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Aaradhana R 22 March 2021

it is sad we should not cut tree

1 0 Reply
Sreehari N 30 November 2020

It sounds very sad..... reading this poem should remind people when they cut a tree, how much pain it might be going through if it were human too.....

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3 5 Reply
Gieve Patel

Gieve Patel

Mumbai / India
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