Planting A Sequoia Poem by Dana Gioia

Planting A Sequoia

Rating: 3.0

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the orchard,
Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing the soil.
Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son's birth--
An olive or a fig tree--a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father's orchard,
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple boughs,
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an infant's birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can--our labor and our soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by the circuit of bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn down,
His mother's beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and emphemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

Practicing Poetess 28 August 2019

Such a sad and touching poem. And how interesting, that in the last stanza, you wrote: 'And when our family is no more, All of his unborn brothers dead'.... When you did, indeed have more children (yet unborn) - - And all of them were sons!

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Fabrizio Frosini 13 December 2015

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son's birth- An olive or a fig tree- a sign that the earth has one more life to bear. ITALIAN: In Sicilia un padre pianta un albero per celebrare la nascita del primo figlio - Un olivo o un albero di fico - un segno che la terra ha una vita in più da sostenere.

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Hatch Graham 02 September 2010

A touching eulogy to a stillborn son. Love it!

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Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia

Hawthorne, California
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