May 2016

How to Draw a Tree

by Pamela Starr


First, abandon your desk and go outside.

Stand under the spreading branches,

gazing through curling leaves,


then down at swaths of eyelet

like Swiss cheese, holes

of light surrounded by shadow.


As the breeze fans your bare arms,

turn your gaze upon the massive trunk

stretching into the sky, touch


the jagged bark and blotches of lichen

that stick to one side, true north. Rest

your head on bare brown roots


and imagine how they grip

the ground beneath. Smell

the loam that covers them,


breathe in its freshness before

you go back inside, charcoal in hand,

to trace it on the naked page.


Sketch the trunk quickly, then feathery

branches and a cloud of leaves,

stippling a few to show their texture.  


No brush stroke will capture

what rustles the leaves, or the squawk

of birds as they shout to one another


from branch to branch, or the peace

you feel lying flat on the ground

and looking up on a warm spring day,


when everything seems possible, the day

stretching endlessly in front of you,

dusk a dream far, far away.


Pamela Starr lives in Hudson, Massachusetts, and has worked as a textbook editor, technical writer, and project manager. Previous publications include an essay in Negative Capability as well as poems in Ballard Street Poetry Journal, GlassFire Magazine, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Currents Anthology VII.