Adrienne Rich: The Tree

Long ago I found a seed,
And kept it in a glass of water,
And half forgot my dim intent
Until I saw it start to reach
For life with one blind, fragile root.
And then I pressed it into earth
And saw its tendrils seek the air,
So slowly that I hardly knew
Of any change till it had grown
A stalk, a leaf; and seemed to be
No more a thing in need of me,
But living by some sapience
I had not given, could not withdraw.
So it grew on, and days went by,
And seasons with their common gifts,
Till at the leafage of the year
I felt the sun cut off from me
By something thick outside my room—
Not yet a tree grown to the full,
Yet so endowed with need and will
It took the warmth and left me cold.
And first I climbed with hook and shears
To prune the boughs that darkened me
,But the tree was stubborner than I,
And where I clipped it grew again,
Brutal in purpose as a weed.
Nor did it give of fruit or flower,
Though seasons brought their common gifts,
And years went by. It only grew
Darker and denser to my view,
Taking whatever I would yield—
The homage of a troubled mind—
Requiring nothing, yet accepting
My willingness to guard its life
By the endurance of my own.
It gives me nothing: yet I see
Sometimes in dreams my enemy
Hanged by the hair upon that tree.

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