It is recorded that on his travels Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
unable to sleep one night when he stayed in a cabin made of new
logs. He was kept awake by moanings everywhere around him,
which none of his companions could hear. "It was the pain of the
trees that had been cut down to build the house," he explained the
next day. "Their grief surrounded me and I could not rest."
The Rabbi was moved by the sorrow of wood, a sorrow that
ascends like sap through the trees, as it does through us, drawn
upward from the earth until it returns to the light from the high-
For what has died and gone back into the earth rises through us
and lives again. We are nourished from below by hidden springs
that drain through the stones with endless wailings that few of us
can hear, but through those laments we flourish and dance in the
sunlit wind before we return as water to the buried stones.
MORTON MARCUS has published seven books
of poetry and one novel. A film historian and critic as well as poet, Marcus taught
Film and Literature at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, until his retirement in
1998. He resides in Santa Cruz. His work has appeared in The Bloomsbury Review,
The Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Poetry International, Caliban and elsewhere.
"The Sorrow of Wood" is taken from his new collection, Moments
Without Names New & Selected Prose Poems (White Pine Press 2002).