Speaking of Yellow

By Peter Halstead

Trees grieve for red, or wind, or meadow,
For the passing of the breeze
That coaxes leaves to fall;
For the accidents of age, for yellow,

For the long view down the hill,
For the browning of the sedge,
For chill they cannot feel,
And warmth they cannot gauge—

For what, they cannot say:
Just the coming of the year,
The running shadows of the air,
The newborn light’s long day.

February 25th, 2023


This is a poem that comes from another poem:


Something comes from trembling leaves
Which passes in the trees for truth:
Somewhere something in them grieves
For yellow, photosynthesis, and youth—

The quivering summer of the stem,
The silent odor of the soils,
The morning haze that colors them
And from their surfaces uncoils

To shelter with its spindly veil
The future giants of its art
And bundle in its shaky Braille
The coming world’s wordless start.

November 6th and 7th, 2005
Rancho Santa Fe

The trembling of the leaves in “Understory” only passes for a kind of truth; we interpret it that way.

There’s also the idea of trees being scared, of losing their youth, or of other things.

The third thought that comes to me is that when I write a poem, it’s the tree in me grieving for yellow, or red, or wind, or meadow. Or maybe it’s grieving for things that can’t be so easily defined.

It’s those inarticulate emotions that generate a poem for me usually, not any specific thought. When we’re hungry, we have specific ideas which emerge from the sensation. When I have a hunger for a poem, I have no idea what the meal will be. It’s like a Chinese menu with an enormous list: anything is possible. Or you can order off the menu, if you know the chef…