Saturday, April 24, 2010

Prune Me

I spent most of this amazing Spring day pruning two apple trees with my sons. We hadn't pruned properly in years, and the branches had woven themselves into tangles of misdirected growth. I even extracted a Chinese Elm working its trash-tree tendrils half-way up the Granny Smith tree. My oldest bravely sawed the tops off, then surgically trimmed it all into modest submission. We cut drastically, worrying we'd gone too far, then stood back and saw these truncated trees as somehow more whole, more complete in being less. Well, the metaphor begged to be expressed. The tone and approach I borrow from John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV (previously posted here).

Prune Me
by Gideon Burton

My gardening God, I am both wheat and chaff,
an olive tamely wild and wildly tame, 
a field that's white for harvest and for laughs.
I sow the bad, the good; I reap the same.
Too long have I, some spastic sapling, spread
my vainest vines along the sunlit path.
Now tangled, gangly, half-alive, half-dead,
I wish for purging, plead for plowing wrath.
So, grasp the sharpest, razored pruning hooks,
strip all my blossom buds with shredding cuts.
I do not care how amputation looks,
just slice and rip my gnarled and pulpy guts.
     For if I am not cut to heaven's length,
     I clot with growth, I wilt in aimless strength.

Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship.


  1. Ouch. Aimless Strength. Not what I'm shooting for. But sometimes that pruning really hurts. Getting to a place that I can pull back and see how the whole looks doesn't happen often enough, but it's nice when it does.

  2. Painful but necessary. I need pruning.