Poem of the Week | July 02, 2013

This week we’ve dug up a gem of a love poem by the inimitable Ellen Bryant Voigt. We first published this poem in issue 4.2, the “gnarled oak issue,” winter, 1980. A trained musician hailing from rural Virginia, Voigt has had an illustrious career since the mid-seventies when her first book Claiming Kin turned heads; she also that year started the first low-residency MFA at Goddard. Her newest book is Headwater: Poems (Norton, 2013). She lives and teaches in Vermont and serves as Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets.


I love you as my other self, as the other
self of the tree is not the pale tree
in the flat hand of the river, but the earth
that holds, is held by, the root of the tree.
This is how the earth loves the river,
and why its least fold solicits each
impulsive stream until the gathered water
makes of earth a passage to the sea.


I’d like to draw a lesson from this figure,
and find some comfort in the way the larger
world rings with such dependencies.
But if I see ourselves in earth and water,
I also see one taken from the other,
the rivening wind loosed against the tree.