From a Window

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Incurable and unbelieving
In any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
Rise kaleidoscopically

As if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

To the pane as I could get
To watch that fitful, fluent spirit

That seemed a single being undefined
Or countless beings of one mind

Haul its strange cohesion
Beyond the limits of my vision

Over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
Exactly as it had and would

(But why should it seem fuller now?)
And though a man’s mind might endow

Even a tree with some excess
Of life to which a man seems witness,

That life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.

Christian Wiman's most recent book is Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet (2007). He is the editor of Poetry magazine.
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