xAmILikeaTree.GIF52000/52065/poem-R_Tillinghast.asfhttp://img.slate.com/mediafalsefalsehere20011018111443PMThursdayOctOctober2310/19/2001 3:14:43 AM6313904368300000002001101924222AMFridayOctOctober210/19/2001 6:42:22 AM631390561420000000

To hear the poet read “Am I Like a Tree,” click here or on the title.

planted by the water
in this congregation, in my father’s glen plaid jacket?
What are these other
well-dressed communicants doing here?

My camel would balk at any attempt
to drive him through the eye of a needle.
What good would it do
to abandon my father and my mother,
now both gone anyway,
and give my worldly goods to be sold?

Yet I think I know what it means
to take up my cross daily.

What am I to make of this advice
to seek first the kingdom of Heaven?
The paths of righteousness
are brambled over, aren’t they?
Rocky, and the footing is bad.

Yet even I have sat down among stones
rough-hewn into blocks two cubits on a side,
and counted my money out in my hands
to see if I could pay to have my tower built.

Asters, I think it is,
on the altar. Someone has laundered and starched the cloth
and now it reflects whitely up onto the silver chalice
as I would expect it to do
at a luncheon in Heaven.

Though I may join my voice with angels and archangels
and with all the company of Heaven, evermore praising
Thee and singing this hymn to proclaim the glory
of Thy holy name;
and though I may even be allowed sometimes
to drink the cup of salvation
and eat the bread of Heaven,
I could never really cut it
as a disciple.

Step sure-footedly.
Be a tree with roots.
Have money in your hand.
Kneel. Rejoice.

We all know one fine morning
we will be called upon
to renounce in one breath
all that we have.