“Planting A Sequoia” by Dana Gioia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the

Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing
        the soil.

Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it
        over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first
        son’s birth –
An olive or a fig tree – a sign that the earth has once
        more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new
        stock into my father’s orchard.
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our
        native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an
        infant’s birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can – our labour and our
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by
        the circuit of bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in
        western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn
        brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn
His mother’s beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and
        ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter, 1991

4 thoughts on ““Planting A Sequoia” by Dana Gioia

    1. That’s so wonderful, Mary. I love Dana’s work, though I am new to it. He had several featured in a nice run on The Writer’s Almanac, what, I guess two months ago? Breathtaking is a very fitting word.
      My mom loved the Redwoods. It’s hard to not think of her when reading this. ❤️


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