Naming the Trees by Bruce Guernsey

Naming the Trees

At the national cemetery in Gettysburg
all the trees have names,
both family and genus
on small brass plaques at the base of each
to let the visitor know
the kind of oak,
whether red, white or black,
and is this rock or silver maple
looking once like any other
burlapped ball of roots
when it was lowered to earth
those decades after the war.

Colorful names like Tulip Poplar,
Weeping Beech, Buckeye,
Sweet Gum and Ginko—
sounding like nicknames almost, these trees
from every region and state
with broad leaves or skinny,
shiny, dull, or no leaves at all
like the Eastern Hemlock,
but all, all with names every one,
no matter the size and shape
amidst the many anonymous
mute stones in their shade.

by Bruce Guernsey

Editor’s Note: The focus on trees and names serves to emphasize the true heart of this poem, which is only revealed at the very end.

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