The Trees of New Jersey

January 19, 2013

Here's to the lovely trees of Jersey, my home . . . town streets lined with linden and larch, . . . poplar and elm, flowered locusts scenting

[A note from Dr Berlin: "I was surprised and delighted to hear from Governor Christie, and really appreciated his letter. I believe he is right about the resilience and kindness of people in my old home state of New Jersey, and wish them well as communities and trees continue their recovery."  For a pdf of Gov Christie's letter to Dr Berlin, please click here.]

~ Dedicated to the trees lost to Hurricane Sandy ~

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

–-Alfred Joyce Kilmer, written on his porch in Mahwah, NJ


Here’s to the lovely trees of Jersey, my home
town streets lined with linden and larch,

poplar and elm, flowered locusts scenting

the lowland marsh in spring. Here’s to the sugar

maple that sheltered my first kiss, and to old apple

limbs I climbed before they bulldozed our last

orchard to pave a parking lot. Here’s to white pine

poles soaked with pitch along State Route 4

with Edison’s bulbs burning on top, to the red oak,

Jersey’s state tree and the specimen sutured

on William Carlos Williams’ Ridge Road lawn.

And let’s pause to praise pin oaks, leafed out

to shelter the Turnpike’s Joyce Kilmer rest stop.

Here’s to ancient sycamores standing where

Washington camped on the Hackensack’s shore,

to Miss America in Atlantic City, lithe

as a weeping willow, and to the cedar plank

boardwalk in Springsteen’s Asbury Park.

Here’s to Parsippany, Tree City USA,

to weed-trees breaking through macadam

cracks in greasy, oil-stained parking lots

behind diners and abandoned drive-ins,

to trunks and branches that endure industrial roar,

diesel fumes, dog piss, the muggy, orange, carsick

August air, trees sentenced to spend their lives

staring at loading docks in the back of Bloomingdales

and pondering the pillars of the Pulaski Skyway,

trees rooted down, stoic, sensual, waving, shady

as every Jersey City mayor, and O so glamorous

and gaudy dressed in their Garden State Green.