Poetry November 2011

Maple Gall

What looks at first like rotten fruit,
hung round the maple’s slender trunk,
we know’s a tortured cluster of
malignancies where cells grow drunk
with larvae, mites or fungus, worms,
with virus or bacteria,
and multiply as tumors, bulge
of goiters, awful excess growths.
But when you look at all the gross
disfigurements at closer range
you see the beauty of distortion,
the sculpture of disease, the strange
and replicating work the tree
is not supposed to yield, a flowery
production so grotesque it seems
a kind of miracle in wood
that makes this sapling both unique
and memorable by virtue of
its suffering swollen sores and scars,
the warts that are its finest art.

Presented by

Robert Morgan is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including the collection Terroir and Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion, both out this year. He teaches at Cornell University.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In