This week’s poem, Douglas Woodsum’s “Love Ravages the Tree of Life,” feels at once intimate and mythic. I love this poem’s startlingly elemental imagery, and the speaker’s sublime melancholy as he tells of a green world fallen and undone.

Douglas “Woody” Woodsum is an ed tech at Carrabec High in North Anson, where the Carrabassett River meets the Kennebec.

Poets, please note that submissions to Deep Water are open through the end of the year. Deep Water is especially eager to share poems by Black writers, writers of color, Indigenous writers, LGBTQ writers and other underrepresented voices. You’ll find a link to submit in the credits below.

Love Ravages the Tree of Life

By Douglas Woodsum

— In memory of Allen Barnett


We shall not love with our bodies again.
Never, never, never, never, never
Love the way our parents did. Leaves give up
Green when we start envying fire. Light

Will not sift now, but fall as unbroken
Beams through the bare woods. Those massive plants tried
To be true to the sun, but they grew wrong
When the light was wrong, leaned over water

That eroded the earth out from under
Them. When a tree falls in the woods, water
Always takes it in. The silence we praise
And call peace is the highest pitched chorus

Imaginable, the white noise of death
And dying: come-cries and a bird’s surprised
Song at the end. We shall not love the trees
Without their silks. Fallen now, they reflect

Fire like souls waiting at a gate in hell
Then they finally fade, unlike the stars
Now fixed above the thinnest limbs, on cool
Clear nights. Autumn’s last harvest is burden.

Those goose bumps are fool’s gold. All the rich sweat,
Sopped up on the hottest nights, squeezes from
Twisted clothing, bedclothes, even our hands
Which is to say the points at the ends of our limbs.

We shall not love with our bodies again
Unless some white magic covers us, holds
The heat in and drifts where the wind pushes
All valuable cargo. What weather

Is this for love? Why are our parents not
Here when they most resemble the trees? Lost
Causes fill the urns, and we, too, are full
And shapely as the unravished must be.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Love Ravages the Tree of Life” copyright 1993 by Douglas Woodsum, reprinted from Prairie Schooner. It appears by permission of the author. Submissions to Deep Water are open now and through the end of the year. For more information, go to

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