By Josephine Miles 1911–1985 Josephine Miles
As George Washington hacked at his cherry tree,
Joseph said to him
This is the tree that fed Mary
When she lingered by the way.

As George Washington polished his bright blade,
Joseph told him
This cherry tree
Bent down and nourished the mother and her babe.

As George Washington felled the cherry tree,
Voices of root and stem
Cried out to him
In heavenly accents, but he heard not what they had to say.

Rather, he was making
A clearing in the wilderness,
A subtle discrimination
Of church and state,

By which his little hatchet
Harvested a continental
Bumper crop for Mary
Of natural corn.

Josephine Miles, “Deed” from Collected Poems. Copyright � 1983 by Josephine Miles. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1930-83 (1983)

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Poet Josephine Miles 1911–1985


Subjects Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Christianity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Josephine  Miles


Lifelong California resident Josephine Miles distinguished herself as an educator, spending her entire academic career at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was the first woman to be tenured in the English department. She is remembered as the editor of anthologies and critical texts, as an author of books on poetic style and language, and as an award-winning poet who produced over a dozen books of poems. Her . . .

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SUBJECT Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Christianity


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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