On Killing A Tree: Gieve Patel

On Killing A Tree

Gieve Patel, born 1940

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out –
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out – snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.


The poem tells about man’s cruelty towards Nature. It raises a topical issue, i. e., killing of a tree which is a problem at large especially environmentally. The poem describes the reality of a tree’s life. The poet tells the us how a tree grows up to its full feature and a thoughtless cutting down of it should not be easy. A tree has a soul that cannot be taken away so easily. The author clearly tells that the destruction of a tree is no less than a cold-blooded murder of life that has been nurtured for years by soil, sun, air and water. The growing up of a tree is no less than the growing up of a human being, and, therefore, cutting down of it is like killing it.

For Patel, the real strength of a tree lies in its roots. When trees are uprooted and exposed to the sun and air, they begin to die. And, there is no more hope for the tree killed.

Patel’s poem is a protest followed by a sense of loss. It raises an environmental protest/voice to safeguard ecological balance, the natural world for a healthy co-existence of all. It also exposes mankind’s violent activities towards Nature.

Published by

Heigrujam Premkumar

I love to read. I love to write. On all things I am passionate about. Tweet me at @heigrujampk

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