The Use of Trees

by Naomi Beth Wakan

For economic animals,

trees are a crop

to be sown and reaped

for lumber, cedar chests,

chopsticks, toothpicks,

guitars, baseball bats,

newspapers and fuel

for our stoves and

a thousand other things.

Like the proverbial pig,

nothing goes to waste

save the soughing of

their branches in the wind.

For we romantics . . .

trees still our agitation

and silence our violence.

For us, they are continually green

reminding us of branches

climbed in childhood and

boughs laid under with our loves.

But left alone,

trees do just what

they are meant to do . . .

clean the air and purify the water,

home the birds and small creatures.

In Autumn, their leaves and cones

nourish the forest floor,

and even when fallen and decayed,

they can still nurse young trees

that shoot up promisingly

from their grounded trunks.

From Bent Arm for a Pillow: New and Selected Poems, Gabriola, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2016, page 136. Among those “thousand other things,” Naomi makes no mention of toilet paper. See my essay on forest bathing.