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The Copper Beech
Marie Howe


Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

From What the Living Do (W. W. Norton & Co., 1997).
Used here with the author’s permission.


Marie Howe was born in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before becoming an award-winning author and university professor. Poet Laureate of New York State from 2012 to 2014, Marie is the author of three books and lives in New York City. Learn more about her at


Post New Comment:
This had me at 'it wore that yard like a dress' and of course, the wonderful last line. I had a special place in the bushes around the grade school across the street. This brought it all back, thank you...
Posted 06/28/2016 05:14 PM
Oh, I love the atmosphere of this!
Posted 06/28/2016 03:07 PM
Profound! I used to hide in overgrown lilac bushes.
Posted 06/28/2016 11:05 AM
Lori Levy:
Posted 06/28/2016 10:49 AM
you take the reader there with you.wonderful!
Posted 06/28/2016 10:42 AM
Brilliant. I can almost smell the rain on the leaves. :-)
Posted 06/28/2016 10:17 AM
Lovely read again and again.
Posted 06/28/2016 09:12 AM
I broke into the first smile of the morning as I read the last line. . .
Posted 06/28/2016 08:50 AM
watching it happen without it happening to me....Delivers & embraces the voice of the child, within all of us. Thanks, Marie.
Posted 06/28/2016 06:16 AM
Linda Anger:
for me there is an interesting connection between "...I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone" and the closing "and I was happy, watching it happen without it happening to me." There is a sense of happiness in her intentional aloneness (not loneliness), learning by being the observer, hidden among the leaves. What a perfectly crafted poem!
Posted 06/28/2016 06:02 AM
Jean :D:
What delightful imagery. Makes me want to find a tree to sit under & feel it's ok to be alone.
Posted 06/28/2016 05:53 AM
Belinda Veldman:
When my kids beg to go out in the rain with an umbrella, I know that this is the appeal - "watching it happen without it happening to me". What a perfect line!
Posted 06/28/2016 02:26 AM

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