Beneath the starry firmament so dark
There lies tonight an old, forgotten tree
Whose bark is peeling, wretched, cold and stark
And has not heard since auld youth’s melody.
The crooked, blackened branches send a plea
To heaven’s glowing mercies and respite
For passersby mock its antiquity
Unknowing of its tears of martyred plight.
But in the coolness of the dark it lifts
Its hoary head in confidence undrawn
And sings a song through fluttering leaves that shift
In sighing harmonies ignored at dawn.



Anna-Marie Ahn is a senior at Westside Christian High School in Portland, Oregon.

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16 Responses

  1. Daniel Kemper

    Excellent. Such is how tradition is regarded these days. And such is how tradition itself regards these days.

  2. Paul Freeman

    That’s beautiful Anna-Marie. I’ve read it twice and will probably read it again later. A lot of poetry these days, I find, is all me, me, me, so it’s refreshing to hear from Nature through an old tree.

    As usual, a wonderful illustration to go with the poem, in this case a baobab tree. Apparently a giant tore them from the ground in a fit of pique and re-inserted them headfirst in the ground roots up.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    “Respite (RES-pit) does not rhyme with “plight,” and many of the clauses here lack firm syntactic connectivity. What, pray tell, does “confidence undrawn” mean?

    • Mike Bryant

      If you’re British respite does rhyme with plight. Ms. Ahn may be bi-lingual!

      • C.B. Anderson

        What, Mike, does being bilingual have to do with anything, unless you are referring to persons who speak both British and American English? (As someone once said, the USA & the UK are two countries divided by a common language.) And are you telling me that the British pronounce it reh-SPITE? I wouldn’t know, but sometimes I wonder: Why can’t the English learn to speak?

      • Mike Bryant

        Good question! If they had all moved over here we would have had plenty of room for them. Heck, they’d still all fit in Texas. Then they could have acquired a drawl.

      • Mike Bryant

        So you did… first, bilingual was my small (very small) joke since I live in a bilingual household. Second, respite is pronounced REH-spite in the Queen’s English, and third, I will pass that one up in the interest of peace.

        I realize the accent is on the wrong syllable… let’s call it metrical variation.


        Click on the speakers to hear the differences…

    • Paul Freeman

      That ‘undrawn’ did pull me up a bit. ‘reborn’ would be fit for purpose, too, and perhaps ‘fluttered leaves’, or even ‘fluted leaves’ rather than ‘fluttering leaves’.

      Apart from the three syllable discordance of ‘fluttering’, I felt that any other syntactic disconnects worked in the poem’s favour.

      • C.B. Anderson

        So then, Paul, can I take it that you are on record as saying that you feel syntactic disconnects should be viewed favorably? What next? That all good poetry should be asemic?

      • An anonymous, well-meaning citizen

        Is it truly necessary to get into an argument over a young girl’s poem, who will probably notice these comments with such joy, only to discover that a single, possibly overlooked pronunciation has transformed such a cause of joy in her life into discord?

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      “Respite” (RES-pit) might be taken as a sight-rhyme with “plight.” But I do agree that it is a bit offputting on first perusal.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Yeah, Joseph, except that a sight-rhyme, in principle, requires a visual identity in all but the initial consonant.

  4. Abigail K.

    This is a lovely poem, Anna-Marie! Congratulations on getting it published!

  5. Paul Freeman

    What a difference twenty-four hours makes, Anna-Marie – 3rd place in the 2021 High School Poetry Competition.


  6. David Gosselin

    Anna-Marie, there are some nice lines here. I can tell that there is an old soul at work, even if this old soul is still in high school.

    As you continue to hone your craft, the ideas will continue to become more and more natural and more and more free. Keep digging deeper and keep sharing what you find.

    I look forward to seeing more of your writing soon.


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