Rosemary, Cypress, Cedar, and Pine

Rosemary and Cypress, and Cedar and Pine,
Green waxen needles and skin of like kind,
Deciduous Cypress asleep in the cold,
Like Cedar, a hardwood to build a stronghold.

Rosemary and Pine are the two you can eat,
Her needles, plus garlic make butter complete,
When roasted and whipped to a thick tasty spread,
Antipasto and Pine Nut? Atop pizza bread.

Each one has some needles, plus similar bark,
Each one has been found to be lush, green and dark,
But three have sharp cones, and the first has a bloom,
And the trees have cologne; Rosemary perfume.


Autumn Time

In Autumn time the fag end still
Lingers ‘mid November’s chill
And finest parts of land and scape
Are found ‘mid yards of wine and grape.

Vine and grape then wine’s relief;
Drink in Autumn’s fine motif.



Below is a poem composed by the poet in French on the above featured photograph.

Le Nuage d’Orage

Le nuage d’orage apporte le noir,
Les ombres imitent un soir,
Distance amicale,
Proximité mortelle.


The Storm Cloud

The storm cloud brings the dark,
the shadows imitate an evening,
distance friendly,
closeness deadly.


Alec Ream is a writer living in the Northern Neck of Virginia. His work has been printed in Decanto Poetry Magazine (West Sussex, UK) 2013-14, Western Viewpoints 2014 (Woodinville, Washington) and Poetic Images: the Great American West 2015 (Woodinville, Washington), The Society of Classical Poets Annual Journals 2015-19 (Mt Hope, New York), The Rocky Point Times 2016 (Puerto Peñasco, Mexico) and in several issues of The Lyric (Jericho, Vermont) 2015-18.  Currently, his work has gone to print in the Autumn Journal of The Writers Guild of Virginia, and his novel Canterbury 2020 is being edited for print in 2020 by High Tide Press in Deltaville, Virginia.  A member of the Demosthenian Literary Society at the University of Georgia, he deployed to Hawija, then wrote on Lookout Mountain, continuing to write, lecture and work for Delta Kappa Epsilon International. He prefers to note that he was first published reading to the pledge class of Michigan DKE, in Ann Arbor.

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23 Responses

  1. Alexander Ream

    writing “Rosemary…” i was nearly certain it shared a classification with “…Cypress, Cedar and Pine.” Absolutely no shared classification – other than all residing in the Plant Kingdom.

    This proved helpful in reminding me of the distinction between the Arts and the Sciences.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Alexander, botany is something of which I can speak Cedars and Pines are in the pine family, but cypress is part of another family, which includes arborvitaes and chamaecyparis (false cypress). What you might not know is that the term “cedar” is much abused when it comes to common names. Eastern red cedar is actually a juniper. Eastern white cedar is actually an arborvitae. Port Orford cedar and Alaskan cedar are two species of chamaecyparis. There are no true cedars (Cedrus) native to North America. I can easily see how you once thought rosemary was related to the conifers: IT LOOKS LIKE ONE, and it smells like one. But it is really in the family which includes all of the various mints. In general, plant taxonomy (especially for angiosperms) is based on a close examination of the reproductive apparatus.

      Now, in regard to the poem, it’s a factual error to refer to any conifer as a hardwood (stanza 1, lines 3 & 4). They are always called softwo pine nutsods, though I’m not sure exactly why, unless it has to do with contrast to the qualities of hardwoods such as maple and oak etc.

      I have often wished that all pine trees yielded edible kernels, because I love pine nuts. As I read the poem I could almost smell the fragrances of which you speak, which is evident in all these species when the needle-like leaves are crushed.

  2. C.B. Anderson

    Sorry, but the middle of the middle paragraph was somehow garbled. It should read:

    They are always called softwoods, though I’m not sure exactly why, unless …

    Where the extraneous text came from I’ll never know.

      • Paul Oratofsky

        CB: it’s abstract – non-objective – purely aesthetic – with enough over- and undertones of meaning that can leave [pun unintended] it up to the reader to find what meaning they want in it. This is where poetry “should” be going – where painting and sculpture have gone, and where music has been for a long time.

  3. Monty

    If that’s “abstract”, Paul – a group of letters inadvertently thrown together in a typo – then the word ‘abstract’ is in trouble. It was just a typo, one which happened to produce the meaningless letters ‘softwo’; thus, if they’re meaningless letters, then no meaning CAN be derived from them (unless one tried to work out if ‘softwo’ might be an abbreviation of someone’s name: e.g. Sofia Twondheim).

    Abstract art, even the most abstractive, has meaning to the author/artist. And if it has meaning to the author/artist, then it can have meaning – no matter how obscure – to someone else. A typo which throws up a non-word that has no meaning to either the author/artist or the reader/viewer . . is just a typo. It’s just a non-word. No meaning can be derived from it; hence we can’t “leave it up to the reader to find what meaning they want”. Not from a typo.

    If we listen to a song with really obscure/abstract lyrics, it’s still composed with real words, not non-words. Only real words can make the song abstract. We can’t call a song abstract just on the strength that it contains a few non-words. Hence, we surely can’t refer to a non-word produced by a typo as abstract.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    To Kip —

    I’ve been told that the long-lived tree “the Bristlecone Pine” is a hardwood. Is this an exception, or is the phrase “bristlecone pine” being misused here, like the word “cedar” in the examples you gave?

    • C.B. Anderson

      Joe, The Bristlecone Pine grows very slowly in areas with little soil or water, and since it grows in small increments, with tiny growth rings, it is a hard wood — but not a hardwood, which is a term applied to deciduous angiosperm trees. The hardwood/softwood distinction is a convention adopted by the lumber industry and interested users of wood. One of my dictionaries gives this definition for “hardwood”: The wood of a broad-leaved flowering tree as distinguished from that of a conifer. In fact, there are many hardwood trees with wood that is rather soft, such as balsa (Ochromia) and others. In general, the hardness of the wood of a given tree is inversely proportional to the tree’s growth rate, which has little to do with the designation “hardwood.” Experience tells us that beechwood is harder than most pine, which is probably why the soft/hard convention arose in the first place. I once grew a bristlecone pine, and if I remember correctly, it didn’t fare all that well in wet, loamy Massachusetts.

  5. Paul Oratofsky

    Hi Monty –

    Thanks for weighing in on this. The source (where it came from) of a linguistic (or any) element in an artwork is irrelevant to what it is or might become. That is, that it was a typo doesn’t matter. All that means is that it was inadvertent. A typo might result in a real word, and the author, even though they didn’t intend that word, might like it and decide to use it anyhow. Whether it was accidental, or a mis-hearing, or however it got in there – once it’s there, how it’s regarded or used may be valid or invalid – regardless of whether it was an accident or not.

    You might argue that it’s gibberish – but that’s in the mind of the reader. What might be gibberish to one person can be meaningful to another. Surely Finnegans Wake must be gibberish to most who read it – but to me (and others), it’s high art.

    You may be confusing two meanings of “meaning.” There’s semantic “meaning” – meaning the world referent of a word, what the word points to in the world outside itself – and then there’s the meaning of “meaning” meaning “significance.” When you say a work has “meaning” to the author, I think you mean “significance” – which is very different from semantic “meaning.” In other words, a term that’s essentially gibberish, in that it has no semantic meaning, can still be meaningful to someone if it has some significance in their life.

    “Abstract” as I’m using it here – means non-objective (a term used it in the visual arts because of ambiguities surrounding the term “abstract.”) Abstract can also mean non-physical, existing only in thought.

    So I’m using the word abstract to mean it has no referent in the real world. Which means it’s a purely aesthetic element. Just like the elements in an “abstract” (ie, non-objective) painting. Poetry too can have elements that don’t refer to the real world, but that can contribute to the aesthetics of the poem (see Wallace Stevens.) It’s similar to yodeling in songs, which is completely meaningless, but quite beautiful.

    Yodel ay he hoo. (See how beautiful that is?)

    • Monty

      Ah, that’s different, Paul. If a typo “results in a real word”, of course that word can be mused upon by the reader; and of course the reader can search for meaning in that word. What’s more, if a typo results in a real word, the reader might not even be aware that it’s a typo! Then what?

      My above point was directed towards typos that DON’T produce real words (such as the above ‘softwo’). Imagine if, while reading, you came across the line: ‘..and when I arrived, I cevn sto the door before entering’; you’d determine immediately that it’s a typo. You wouldn’t start thinking: “perhaps cevn sto is abstract, and has some meaning to it”. That’s what’s I was getting at. Otherwise, any typo which didn’t produce a real word could be seen as abstract . . when it’s just a typo.

      And as for your definition of ‘abstract’: we should leave the lid firmly sealed on that particular can. ‘What is abstract?’ is similar to another impossible question: ‘What is the meaning of life?’ . . if you asked an ‘undred different people, you’d get an ‘undred different answers! ‘Abstract’ is an individual sense or feeling, and no two individuals are the same; thus it’ll always be a highly-ambiguous term, and is best left unturned.

      When I said a piece of abstract art has meaning to the artist, I didn’t mean ‘significance’, I meant ‘meaning’. By that, I meant that if the piece is considered really abstract by others – mainly for the reason that it’s hard to derive meaning from it – the artist has known the meaning all along, ‘coz he knows what was in his mind when he painted it. He knows what he meant to portray in the piece. Hence, no matter how obscure it seems to others, it’ll always have meaning to the artist, even if it’s meaningless to all others.

  6. Paul Oratofsky

    Oops. Excuse the typo – an extraneous “it” in paragraph 4, inside the parens.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I like your distinction regarding the two meanings of “meaning,” but speaking of gibberish, I don’t want to see Wallace Stevens, or ever yodel. In the course I took on American Indian Music and Dance, the anthropologist who taught it said that sounds such LITTLE OLD LADY WHO are called vocables. HEY NEY NEY NEY figured large in some of the songs we studied (and sang) in that class.

      • Paul Oratofsky

        Yes, different strokes. In earlier days I fell so in love with yodeling that I felt if I learned how to do it, I would just sit in a corner and yodel the rest of my life away – in a state of bliss.

        Online, it defines vocable as “a word, especially with reference to form rather than meaning” – which fits the example I used it for – about abstract writing.

        And about typos, many think evolution is driven by typos (in the DNA.) They’re not to be taken lightly.

  7. Alexander Ream

    CB – thanks for the typo, it created a nice diversion from my inarguable status as, well, a bit too creative? bit too much into the arts ‘stead of the sciences?

    what about the French 4 line? let’s change the conversation halfway back…and thanks for the insight into Plant Kingdom Taxonomy.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Alexander, I’ll chip in and say that I enjoyed your thematic originality. I did, in fact, enjoy your 4-line French verse but perhaps more so in the English version than the French. It seems to me that if you added a three-beat 5th line that you would have something akin to a French limerick. As for the matter of taxonomy I have nothing to add. But to Dr. Salemi I would say that I have visited the Bristlecone reserve in the White Mountains of Nevada and, as a true conifer, they should be classified as a softwood. Due to their slow growth and the resulting compactness of their annual rings, the wood is uniquely dense and, as a result, could be fairly described as a “hard” wood.

    • James a. Tweedie

      Alexander, I’ll chip in and say that I enjoyed your thematic originality. I did, in fact, enjoy your 4-line French verse but perhaps more so in the English version than the French. It seems to me that if you added a three-beat 5th line that you would have something akin to a limerick. As for the matter of taxonomy I have nothing to add.

      But to Dr. Salemi I would say that I have visited the Bristlecone reserve in the White Mountains of Nevada and, insofar as they are a part of the pine family they should be classified as a softwood tree. As a result of their slow growth, however, their annual rings are uniquely compact, resulting in a density that could lead to it being fairly described as “hard” wood.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Thank you, Mr. Tweedie, and Kip Anderson. I assume that the wood of bristlecone pines (although wonderfully hard and dense) is never used because of the extreme rarity of the trees.

  8. Alexander Ream

    the Enlightenment = alive and well in the of Classical Poets
    #exact #artsandsciences #freespeech #critic #movingforward #demosthenianliterarysocietyUGA

  9. Paul Oratofsky

    Monty – yes, you’re right about typos. (It’s different with DNA, because any mistake can still be translated into an amino acid (a protein element) – but that’s not the case for typos in what we write.)

    I don’t agree about abstract art, though. In painting, it can be pretty clear when a work is abstract or not. There are gray areas, but there are also clear ones. At one end of the spectrum are paintings no one would question are abstract, like Pollock’s, Kandinsky’s, Rothko’s, and many others’ works. And there are some works that may at first seem to be abstract, and then turn out not to be (see DeStaël’s paintings.)

    And for your third point, once a work of [any art] is “released” – what the artist had in mind is irrelevant. The work becomes like a living creature, with a life of its own, and any meaning seen in it is owned by the viewer, not its creator.

    • Monty

      See? That’s why I warned that we should steer clear of the word ‘abstract’, ‘coz it means different things to different people.

      An example of this can be found in your last comment, in which you seemed to contradict yourself in the space of 18 consecutive words. The first 14 were: “In painting, it can be pretty clear when a work is abstract or not” . . and the next 4 were: “There are grey areas..” . . yeah, there certainly ARE grey areas, which is why it’s NOT pretty clear whether a work is abstract or not! If it WAS clear, there wouldn’t be any grey areas!

      And lest we forget, the word ‘abstract’ can pertain to art in two different ways: it can refer to an individual painting.. or it can refer to a form of art. What’s more, the term ‘abstract art’ initially described a Movement, which began in Western Europe (particularly Paris) in the early part of the last century; from which sprang other terms such as ‘cubism’ and ‘dada’.

      Like I said: it’s an individual thing. One person may look at a painting and see clear meaning in it; hence they don’t deem it to be abstract. Another person may find no meaning in the same painting; thus they may refer to it as abstract. There’s no definitive answer.

      Regarding your third paragraph: I agree. Once a work is “released”, then the meaning intended by the artist becomes irrelevant. But I never said anything to the contrary. If you read my words again, you’ll find that what I DID say was . . . If, hypothetically speaking, a painting was “released”, and not one viewer could derive any meaning from it.. it’ll still have meaning to the artist, as it must. That doesn’t mean that the meaning to the artist carries any relevance: it doesn’t once the painting’s “released”. But even though it becomes irrelevant (upon release), that doesn’t mean that the painting no longer has meaning to the artist . . the original meaning will always remain with the artist.

  10. Paul Oratofsky

    Just because there are colors that aren’t clearly either blue or green – doesn’t mean there aren’t clear blues or clear greens. Your thinking here is simply incorrect. That there is a gray area – doesn’t deny that there are works that are NOT in any gray area.

    • Monty

      My thinking couldn’t possibly have been incorrect, Paul.. ‘coz I didn’t do any thinking! At no stage during our discourse have I said that I ‘think’ abstract art is this or it’s that; and at no stage have I tried to espouse my ‘own’ views on what constitutes abstract art . . . I’ve simply tried to convey what I see as the very ambiguity of the term.

      Of course there are some forms of art which we might see as indubitably ‘abstract’ (for example, the aforementioned cubism movement, and some of its proponents such as Miro, Ernst, Bacon, Picasso; and others under the patronage of Peggy Guggenheim) . . there are NO gray areas with any of the above; they were PURELY abstract.. and every viewer will see it as such.

      But not all art is as purely abstract as that; some may be only HALF as abstract, or only SLIGHTLY abstract . . which means they’re not PURELY abstract; and in such cases, some will see it as abstract.. and some won’t! That’s the definition of a grey area.

      Thus, all I’m saying, Paul, is . . . unless it’s patently abstract (e.g. Cubism), then (to paraphrase a time-honoured saying): ‘Abstract is in the eye of the beholder’.


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