Kilmer: Trees

Joyce Kilmer was living in Mahwah, New Jersey, at the time he wrote the poem Trees (February 2, 1913). According to his son, “It was in an upstairs bedroom… which served as Mother’s and Dad’s bedroom and also as Dad’s office…. The window looked out down a hill, on our well-wooded lawn – trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I don’t know what else.” – Memories of my Father, Joyce Kilmer; Kenton Kilmer, 1993.

Sgt. Joyce Kilmer was a soldier in the United States Army 165th Infantry, Rainbow Division and was killed in action by a sniper during World War I, aged 31. His body was buried in the Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.


by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain;

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.