Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century”. Also bought “the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse”. Rich criticized rigid forms of feminist identities, and valorized what she coined the “lesbian continuum”. Below poem The Trees is one of her famous poems.

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. She was a famous poet, essayist and feminist. She has published nineteen volumes of poetry, three collections of essays and other writings.

Adrienne Rich

Summary

The poem has a symbolic meaning, the trees are an extended metaphor for women. The poet says that the women have rested, healed and recovered and are ready for their primary purpose – to renew the empty forest of mankind.

The Trees

The poet talks about trees symbolically. They refer to women who have been healed and are ready to move out of their houses to fulfil their primary purpose – to renew the forest of mankind. As women have remained indoors, the forest has become empty, the birds and insects rendered shelterless. The Sun’s rays do not have the tree trucks and leaves to fall upon and thus, reach the earth. She says that the forest will be full of trees the next morning.

The roots of the trees are working hard to separate from the floor of the veranda where they have remained fixed. The leaves and branches are moving towards the glass windows. They are desperate to move out just like a newly discharged patient moves to the exit door of the hospital. The poet is sitting in her house with the doors of the veranda open. She is writing letters but does not mention this movement of the trees. 

The Trees 2

The trees inside are moving out into the forest,
the forest that was empty all these days
where no bird could sit
no insect hide
no sun bury its feet in shadow
the forest that was empty all these nights
will be full of trees by morning.

All night the roots work
to disengage themselves from the cracks
in the veranda floor.
The leaves strain toward the glass
small twigs stiff with exertion
long-cramped boughs shuffling under the roof
like newly discharged patients
half-dazed, moving
to the clinic doors.

I sit inside, doors open to the veranda
writing long letters
in which I scarcely mention the departure
of the forest from the house.
The night is fresh, the whole moon shines
in a sky still open
the smell of leaves and lichen
still reaches like a voice into the rooms

My head is full of whispers
which tomorrow will be silent
Listen. The glass is breaking.
The trees are stumbling forward
into the night. Winds rush to meet them.
The moon is broken like a mirror,
its pieces flash now in the crown
of the tallest oak.

The Trees 3

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