The Marginalian
The Marginalian

How to Make a World: A Poem

Like mathematics, the truest metaphors are not invented but discovered. Or, they discover us. And when they do, they hardly feel like metaphors — they feel like equations equating something previously unseen with something familiar in order to see more deeply into the nature of reality.

One morning out on a run while traveling for a poetry workshop, I stopped mid-stride at the sight of a tiny tree shooting up from the center of a trunk twice as wide as me — a regenerative growth known as coppicing. I must have walked past dozens, hundreds of such stubborn second lives over the years. But for some reason, this one — at that moment in my life, at that moment in the world — became a mirror, a portal, a miniature of a larger truth about what made us and what we have made of ourselves.

By sundown, it had become a poem — read here to the sound of Zoë Keating’s “Optimist” from her breathtaking album Into the Trees.

by Maria Popova

What are you, little tree
rising from the center
of the old slain stump?
You are no requiem,
no prophet,
no metaphor for how
life goes on asserting itself
over death.

No — you seem to be
just a fractal branch
of the same dumb resilience
by which we rose from the oceans
to compose the Benedictus
and to build the bomb.

Couple with another found metaphor in the shape of a poem about the stubbornness of hope, then savor Pattiann Rogers’s stunning Homo Sapiens: Creating Themselves.”

Published January 28, 2024




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