Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Killing A Tree

Gieve Patel

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 if it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.
So hack and chop
But this alone won't 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.


Rakesh said...

Awesome poem! So delicate in its lexis, and so chilling in its implications. My kids didn't get the drift immediately, but once I led them on, they loved it immensely!

Do you have anything else that Gieve Patel's written?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rakesh, am impressed with your ability to imagine. I happen to be a friend of Gieve and remember him sharing that the poem was written when he was given the task of cleaning the Garden..the poem aptly reflects his pain of doing the task.

scarburn said...

well its a great poem,it wasn't my intention to read your blog but it nice to see someone who actually cares about the environment........

well i was searching for its explanation ..

Rahul-fks said...

Haha my poetry sir says we didnt get the drift,its a good poem anyway

Reading Rainbow said...

I have a reading centre for children ( we share some great reading time together. Recently, I simply read out this poem and no explanation was given. I told children to just feel the poem and encouraged them to write their immediate responses to the poem - fresh and spontaneous. Here's what they had to say: Atula

When we destroy a tree, we will have to strive, as the tree won’t easily give up its life. This poem made me think that when man hurts a tree, the tree challenges the man and shows bravery. It fights back. We must save trees. Dhwani, Age 13

The poem teaches persistence, but there’s violence in it. Is the poet trying to say that if you want to eradicate a problem, you have to destroy its source? Or is it that deep roots are not easy to pull out. So let’s be well rooted. Aarit. Age 13

The poem shows us how to kill a tree but if we read deeper, it’s saying we should never harm trees. A tree takes so many years to grow. Consider the pain it must feel when we hurt its root and pull it out. Shailee. Age 10

For so many years the tree consumes the earth and feeds on the crust of the earth. I didn’t like the idea of cutting trees. We should not kill trees. Anyways it is so difficult to do.Kshipra; Age 9

If I were the author I would not write a poem on killing a tree because cutting trees pollutes the earth. I would write about caring for trees. They save our earth. Gurpreet; Age 10

In this poem, the poet is trying to tell us that trees take many years to grow. Not a job of knife will do it. If we cut the tree and leave it just like that, the tree will again grow. We will have to pull the roots of the tree, pull hard and then the power of the tree will be exposed. But it is better that we do not cut trees as the balance of nature will be destroyed. Sahil, Age 10

I realized how difficult is killing a tree.
In life everything is not easy. I learnt that all the bad things are also very difficult to do. Then why do people do bad things? I felt sad. Jeetmanyu; Age 9

I don’t understand why the poet wrote “On killing a tree?” He could have written “Don’t cut trees.” It is sad that he is teaching us to destroy that which gives oxygen! We will suffocate. Apurva, Age 9

By writing such words, the poet is really using reverse psychology. He actually wants to tell us that if we have to do so much hard and bad work to kill a tree, then why kill a tree? Rohan; Age 11

God must be so creative that he made trees. I feel sorry that trees are cut down. I think the poet loves nature and gives a message that we should protect nature. Pankti; Age 10

It is bad to kill a tree. It should be free after it comes out of the earth. If we cut a tree, it will grow again, but before that it will bleed. I felt sad reading it. Vipanshi; 9

Reading Rainbow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mariyam ayesha said...

oh these poems were relly touching .. dont blame the poet , he said in a correct way like cutting the tree because in this temporary world nothing is permanent , even human being life " death is equal to everyone .. tree is a living thing ,, that life spam was written by god ...

arushi said...

"On Killing A Tree" is a very touching poem to me. It is said correct that it is not that easy to kill a HUMAN that is very close to us.......
So why should a tree is being killed.It is one precious gift given to us by God. If we a kill a tree we are only going to suffer.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

awesome poem
really liked the way the poet conveyed the message to the readers!!

Hellfire said...

the poet has written on how to kill a tree bit if we read deeper we can actually see that he does no want us to cut them.The poet refers to the plant sap when he says the bleeding bark and i find this poem a very interesting one

Anonymous said...

I love this poem. The first time I read it, I had tears in my eyes... And have been an environmentalist ever since.

Anonymous said...

heyy this poem is so popular tht its even in my skool book
and i love it more thn any other

Anonymous said...

man too good!!

Anonymous said...

this poem is wonderful and i love it. i first read it in my school book and i just had to look it up so i could print it for myself it's one of my favourite poems ever

Shweta said...

Well scarburn,
since u were searchin 4 da explanation, let me tell u i learnt dis poem in skul.
It says that a tree is a thing dat has grown to be big & strong consuming the earth, air and years of nourishing sunlight. Thus if u try to hack & chop it ,it displays a spirit of resilience and grows back from unchecked shoots.
The roots are the strength of the tree, that protect & nourish it.But the roots are also the weakness of the tree. To kill the tree, u must uproot the tree comletely. On doing so, u will see the white & wet roots. White because they haven't been out in the sunshine & wet because they are the ones that pass on water to the tree. The roots will slowly twist and turn in pain and the tree will be gone.
Gieve may demonstrate the right way to kill a tree but actually, he tell us not to because the tree 2 feels immense pain like all humans.
Gieve thus uses humane terms like 'killing' instead of 'felling',to show the brutality man showcases by killing the most defenceless creatures on earth. He also underlines the spirit of resilience of nature, no matter how much we harm it, it still grows back to provide all earthlings with nourishment.
Just continue to read between the lines and u'll become an xpert interpreter of master works of great poets as gieve

shail said...

It is about something more than a tree. Something that has grown into strength from tough times. Even when it is cut down it tries to rise again, afresh with new hope. But when that inner strength is uprooted, relentlessly beaten down and exposed, that something withers and dies forever.
Maybe the tree is used as a parallel for that something or at least I feel so. I could be wrong. Wonderful.

Reading Rainbow said...

Hi Shail, loved your interpretation.Poems can be interpreted in many ways.It all depends on the reader's perceptions. I guess you are quite on the mark! :-) cheers!

pooja said...

what a beautiful thought Gieve has got. I am a school student and would appreciate if you write poems on such topics regarding nature

pooja said...

what a beautiful thought Gieve has got. I am a school student and would appreciate if you write poems on such topics regarding nature

sharon said...

gieve patel explains that as it has taken many years for a tree to grow it also takes much effort to destroy one...lovely poem!!.. :D

Maithili Desai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maithili Desai said...

We had this poem in or school english text.... I remember we'd read it in the school garden, sitting on our favourite tree perches... After the final line that our teacher read: "And then.... it is done..." I remember hugging my tree as a tear rolled down my cheek...
I'd forgotten the significance of that tear....
Read it today after ages and it hits me with another impact all together....

Anonymous said...

hi to me this poem is a metaphor for rooting out evil that has taken strong roots. The tree is more than a tree it is a vice an evil in society notice the use of words like'leperous' 'consuming' specially the menacing way the tree has grown feeding on the earth that later is termed as 'anchoring'now think for yourselves guys....

barbie said...

i feel it is a good poem but i actually wanted the proper explanation of this poem according to the poet!!!!

Girish Chandra Dehury said...

The poet uses reverse psychology and thereby endeavours to touch the emotional chords of his readers. The brutality evokes sympathy for the victim and hatred for the doer of this heinous crime.

monica sharma said...

I had first read this poem in school, about 30 years ago! Our teacher Mrs.Tomar, had explained this poem so beautifully,that its significance has not been lost till now...!The best part is the message that, even though we humans try to prove that we are more powerful than any other creature, we end up proving ONLY that we are merciless and extremely self-centred in our ways...
Wonderful poem, you almost empathise with the tree and the pain it has to suffer.