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Signs and Wonders: poem by Brian Kates

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

canopy of beech trees, image by Gennaro Leonardi, on Pixabay

Signs and Wonders

The rotting beech, rooted just a few yards from my house,

rose like a six-story steeple in the cathedral of trees

at the edge of our woods.

She’d stood a hundred years or more through sun and snow

drought and flood, housed crows and doves, was a ladder

to the sky for countless kids.

But now she was like a much-loved dog you take to

the vet for a merciful end. I watched and wept as

men with ladders, ropes, and saws took her down.

I’ve read that beech trees form families root to root,

warn each other of danger, share food with sick brethren,

make sacrifices to encourage new life.

That spring, the mother stump birthed a half dozen shoots.

Nourished, I like to think, by arboreal aunts and uncles,

they stretch for the blessing of rain and the succor of sun.

It seems to me they are in constant conversation

with each other and with God. When the wind rises,

I think I hear their prayers.


Brian Kates, a longtime journalist, is an award-winning author and holds a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

His poetry has appeared in Spirit Fire Review,

Amethyst, Paterson Literary Review, Third Wednesday, Common Ground Review, Ekphrastic Review, Banyan Review, and other journals. He lives with his wife in

a house in the woods in the lower Hudson Valley.

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