The Difficulty with a Tree

By Russell Edson b. 1935 Russell Edson
A woman was fighting a tree. The tree had come to rage at the woman’s attack, breaking free from its earth it waddled at her with its great root feet.
         Goddamn these sentiencies, roared the tree with birds shrieking in its branches.
         Look out, you’ll fall on me, you bastard, screamed the woman as she hit at the tree.
         The tree whisked and whisked with its leafy branches.
         The woman kicked and bit screaming, kill me kill me or I’ll kill you!

         Her husband seeing the commotion came running crying, what tree has lost patience?
         The ax the ax, damnfool, the ax, she screamed.
         Oh no, roared the tree dragging its long roots rhythmically limping like a sea lion towards her husband.
         But oughtn’t we to talk about this? cried her husband.
         But oughtn’t we to talk about this, mimicked his wife.
      
   But what is this all about? he cried.
         When you see me killing something you should reason that it will want to kill me back, she screamed.

         But before her husband could decide what next action to perform the tree had killed both the wife and her husband.
         Before the woman died she screamed, now do you see?
         He said, what...? And then he died.

Russell Edson, “The Difficulty with a Tree”, in The Clam Theater © 1973 by Russell Edson and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. www.wesleyan.edu/wespress

Source: The Clam Theater (Wesleyan University Press, 1973)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Russell Edson b. 1935

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Trees & Flowers, Mythology & Folklore, Ghosts & the Supernatural

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

 Russell  Edson

Biography

Called the “godfather of the prose poem in America,” Russell Edson’s idiosyncratic body of work is populated with strange and intriguing figures: a woman fights a tree, a mother serves ape; in the poem “Let Us Consider,” there’s a “farmer who makes his straw hat his sweetheart” and an “old woman who makes a floor lamp her son.” The poems are surreal and fablelike, sometimes resembling brief plays. Donald Hall has said of Edson’s . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers, Mythology & Folklore, Ghosts & the Supernatural

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.