Home > Words of Power > A Tree for Ezekiel

A Tree for Ezekiel

January 13, 2010

by Marly Youmans

First of all, know this: the tree was dead,
It had already been dead for a time,
It was going to be dead a long while.
It was a stick in labyrinths of sand.
And yet, and yet—for this Ezekiel,
This dry-bone tree was clothed in chrysolite,
So that the leaves made glitterings in sun.
The bole was swathed in strips of China silk,
The twigs were mummied in gem-colored threads,
The shriveled root began to drink from earth.
A gust came from the East: the sound of wings,
And leaves turned in the wind—blue leaves and green
Looking, and each shaped like a human eye.
A dew arose from earth and bloomed as cloud,
Though in the desert, this was very strange
To see, and also there was far tumult
As if the dunes had changed to waterfalls.
The priest Ezekiel discerned a form
Among the staring blue and green of leaves,
Prismatic figure brightened by the light.
Ezekiel foretold: Your incense lost,
Your limestone idols headless in the dust,
Your cities and all of your histories
Wiped from the memories of everyone . . .
The centuries forget your name, your love,
The sons and daughters raised from infancy
In years that are themselves forgotten things,
And all there is of comfort is this tree,
Mysterious and riddling-strange to you,
A rainbow covenant, its promises
Too far away in time for you to see.

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Marly Youmans’ second book of poems, The Throne of Psyche, is due out soon from Mercer University Press. Keep up with all Marly Youmans-related news at The Palace at 2:00 a.m.

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  1. January 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I love the shimmer in this poem. Thank you Marly.

  2. sebastien doubinsky
    January 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Absolutely beautiful!

  3. Clare d
    January 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Wonderful, Marly – shades of Ozymandias…

  4. January 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Pica–

    Thanks–I clicked on your link and then jumped over and noodled through “bird by bird” and enjoyed it. And shall send it to my mother, the family birder.

    Mr. Doubinsky!

    Thanks for the compliment. A person needs one now and again…

  5. January 13, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Oops, Clare slipped in–

    That’s an interesting comparison. I hadn’t thought of it, but it seems right.

  6. Paul Digby
    January 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    How trees measure time. A beautiful poem, with references to fantastical, historical things.
    I love the, ‘Ezekiel foretold’ section so very much. A poem to read over, and over……

  7. Kathy Epling
    January 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Beautiful poem, it brought tears to my eyes.

  8. January 13, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Gorgeous and refreshing, Marly.

  9. January 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Tears! Thanks, I always appreciate tears… Grand to take part in the water cycle (I’ve been quizzing a seventh-grader!)

    Thanks very much for the comments, Paul and Julie and Kathy. I’m glad you liked it.

    And I hadn’t really thought about the whole business of trees as a kind of natural clock in connection with this poem, though it’s sort of built-in with trees, isn’t it? So it’s there whether I was thinking consciously about it or not.

  10. January 13, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Wonderful Marly. I feel challenged. I must go out and write!

  11. January 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Robbi–

    That’s a great response!

  12. January 14, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Lovely poem Marly. Good too to see all the responses. Dave and Beth do a wonderful job here at Qarrtsiluni.

    Tears! This is an interesting topic in relation to creativity. My partner Peter once started questioning friends and acquaintances about whether they ever cried in response to created works. Everyone seemed to think that music was top of the list, literature/poetry came second and painting/art was way down at the bottom. It was particularly difficult to find people who could recall a painting that had brought tears to their eyes. (I have a small list of my own!) Music seems to be less specific as listeners are able to project their own images onto it according to their moods. Kathy (above) clearly has an open heart to poetry. It must be interesting to you as the poet to know that your work has provoked tears. On Monday I stood in front of the famous polychrome bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Mueseum, Berlin, and the moment made the tears come, though perhaps that’s partially to do with the fact that I’ve loved her at a distance since I was nine years old, yet it’s taken me all these years to see her face to face. I blubbed. She was impassive. I’m glad the room was dark!

  13. January 14, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Such rich and vivid imagery—you’ve flooded my eyes and imagination with colors and movement and light.

  14. January 14, 2010 at 8:27 am


    Thanks very much for such a painterly response! Seems to be a morning for painters.


    I must say that I’ve had tears spring into my eyes in response to works of visual art. The first time that I can recall clearly was when I was, I suppose, nineteen or thereabouts. I walked into the Assyrian gallery at the British Museum… Some of it was that sensation of seeing a thing one has studied; some of it was the scale and magnificence and sense of otherness. Some of it was the sudden step from one century into another, a feeling that time is a place that one can almost reach. The stonework felt magical and fearsome to me at that age.

    The piece of mine that has had the most reported tears (that is, reported to me! and by both men and women) is “Catherwood” (FSG, 1996). I’ve also had a few people say they had to stop reading it for a week or so and then go back to it. Well, one hopes that something matters after it is made–that it goes on to have a little life of its own.

  15. Lynn Digby
    January 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm


    This poem paints a vivid image. I love the visuals that lead to the meaning.

    • January 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks, Lynn! It still seems to be a “painting day” over here…

  16. zephyr
    January 18, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Oh that every desert has such a tree.exquisite, Marly.

  17. January 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for zephyring by to read, Ms. Z! I’m glad you liked it.

  18. February 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    That is really wonderful..You are very talented… My Festival of The Trees Post..Herbie The Elm Tree

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