Poetry Daily

Pines

James Richardson

Pine—the tree, that is—grows from a rootthat means to swell, from which we also getthe word fat, and by extensionEire and the Pierian springs, for their fertility.But the pine in to pine for or to pine awaystems from a root to pay for or atonewhich gives us penalty and punish and pain.Somehow two thoughts, on different sidesof a shearing fault of language, have slid togetherand stuck, for our lifetimes, anyway, at the sound pine.It’s not so common, in this practical century,for lovers to pine away, and as our climate warms,pines are retreating higher, but late as it is,anyone sleepless will hear the sound of the windthinning through pines as pained. Maybe at firstthey were a little strange with each other,but it’s natural, now, that pine and pine are pine.Just as, when two who met on a trail one morningare still talking at sunset, something otherthan matching their strides is keeping them together.

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James Richardson’s collections of poems, aphorisms and ten-second essays include VectorsInterglacial, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; By the Numbers, a finalist for the National Book Award; During, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award; and For Now, published in June by Copper Canyon Press. He teaches at Princeton University.

“Richardson is an unsung genius, America’s great living aphorist and a poet of profound compassion, wisdom, and humility… In long meditative lyrics, haiku, koans, and lines of shining brilliance, Richardson says a quiet, love-filled goodbye to every minute, and I find myself, reading this book, standing right beside him.”
NPR

“In an anxious time, readers will find welcome consolation in Richardson’s poise and empathic relationship with the things of this small world.”
Library Journal

“[Richardson’s] books are, in my view, some of the most beautiful produced by any American writer of the past few decades; they contain echoes of many poets distributed throughout many countries and centuries, yet they always sound contemporary, as if they were written last night—or ten years from now.”
Zyzzyva

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