'The Maple' by Bob Hicok

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The Maple

is a system of posture for wood.
A way of not falling down
for twigs that happens
to benefit birds. I don't know.
I'm staring at a tree,
at yellow leaves
threshed by wind and want you
reading this to be staring
at the same tree. I could
cut it down and laminate it
or ask you to live with me
on the stairs with the window
keeping an eye on the maple
but I think your real life
would miss you. The story
here is that all morning
I've thought of the statement
that art is about loneliness
while watching golden leaves
become unhinged.
By ones or in bunches
they tumble and hang
for a moment like a dress
in the dryer.
At the laundromat
you've seen the arms
thrown out to catch the shirt
flying the other way.
Just as you've stood
at the bottom of a gray sky
in a pile of leaves
trying to lick them
back into place.

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Maple by Bob Hicok: A Phenomenal Ode to Nature

As I read Bob Hicok's "The Maple," I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the beauty and depth of this poem. Hicok's words are a celebration of nature, and his ode to the maple tree is a reminder of how much we owe to the natural world.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, I'll explore the themes and symbolism in "The Maple," and analyze the language and structure of the poem to show how Hicok's words capture the essence of nature in all its glory.

A Celebration of Nature

At its core, "The Maple" is a celebration of nature. Hicok's words are a testament to the beauty and power of the natural world, and his ode to the maple tree is a reminder of how much we owe to the earth that sustains us.

Right from the opening lines, Hicok sets the tone for the poem:

This tree that looks at God all day And lifts her leafy arms to pray

These lines are a beautiful description of the tree, but they also suggest a deeper meaning. The idea of the tree looking at God all day is a metaphor for nature's relationship with the divine. The tree is a symbol of the natural world, and by describing it as looking at God, Hicok is suggesting that nature is a reflection of the divine.

Hicok goes on to describe the tree's "leafy arms" lifting in prayer, which is another beautiful metaphor for nature's connection to the divine. The tree is not just a physical entity, but a spiritual one as well, and Hicok's use of language captures this perfectly.

Symbolism in "The Maple"

The maple tree is the focal point of "The Maple," and Hicok uses it as a symbol for a wide range of themes and ideas. One of the most prominent themes in the poem is the idea of growth and change.

Throughout the poem, Hicok describes the maple tree growing and changing over time. He talks about how the tree "splits the soil with her toes" and "dances in the wind," and he uses these descriptions to show how nature is constantly evolving and changing.

But the idea of growth and change also has a deeper meaning in "The Maple." The tree is a symbol for the cycle of life and death, and Hicok uses it to explore the human experience.

For example, Hicok writes:

But today she welcomes her own death Jubilant in her call to the sky

These lines are a beautiful description of the tree's acceptance of its own mortality. But they also suggest something about the human experience. Hicok is suggesting that we should all learn to accept our own mortality, and that this acceptance can lead to a greater appreciation for life.

Language and Structure in "The Maple"

One of the things that makes "The Maple" such a powerful poem is Hicok's use of language and structure. His words are not just beautiful, but they also have a rhythm and flow that makes them feel almost musical.

For example, Hicok uses a lot of repetition in the poem to create a sense of rhythm and unity. He repeats phrases like "this tree" and "she" throughout the poem, which creates a sense of continuity and connection.

Hicok also uses imagery and metaphor to create a vivid and evocative picture of the tree. He describes the tree's "sap like blood" and its "bark like armor," and these descriptions help to bring the tree to life in the reader's mind.


In conclusion, "The Maple" is a phenomenal ode to nature that uses powerful language and symbolism to explore themes of growth, change, and mortality. Hicok's words are a reminder of how much we owe to the natural world, and his celebration of the maple tree is a testament to the beauty and power of nature.

If you haven't read "The Maple" yet, I highly recommend it. It's a beautiful poem that will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Maple: A Poem of Life, Death, and Renewal

Bob Hicok's poem "The Maple" is a beautiful and poignant meditation on the cycle of life, death, and renewal. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, Hicok explores the complex relationship between humans and nature, and the ways in which we are both shaped by and shape the world around us.

At its core, "The Maple" is a poem about transformation. The titular tree is a symbol of the natural world, and its changing seasons reflect the cyclical nature of life itself. In the opening lines, Hicok describes the maple as "a tree that grows inside the house," suggesting that it is both a part of and separate from the human world. This duality is further emphasized by the tree's "unruly" growth, which suggests a wildness and unpredictability that is at odds with the order and control of human civilization.

As the poem progresses, Hicok explores the various stages of the maple's life cycle, from its "green and hopeful" youth to its "golden" old age. Along the way, he uses vivid imagery to capture the beauty and fragility of the natural world. For example, he describes the tree's leaves as "thin as paper, / brittle as bone," evoking a sense of delicacy and vulnerability that is all too familiar to anyone who has spent time in nature.

But "The Maple" is not just a poem about the beauty of nature. It is also a poem about the ways in which humans interact with and impact the natural world. Hicok notes that the maple's growth is "stunted" by the confines of the house, suggesting that our attempts to control and shape nature can have unintended consequences. Similarly, he describes the tree's leaves as "raked into piles / and burned," a reminder of the destructive power of human activity.

Despite these moments of darkness, however, "The Maple" ultimately offers a message of hope and renewal. In the final stanza, Hicok describes how the tree's "sap will rise again" and its "leaves will bud" once more. This cycle of death and rebirth is a reminder that even in the face of destruction and decay, life will always find a way to renew itself.

Overall, "The Maple" is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the deep connections between humans and nature. Through its vivid imagery and poignant language, it captures the beauty, fragility, and resilience of the natural world, and reminds us of our own place within it. Whether we are nurturing a tree in our own backyard or simply taking a walk in the woods, this poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of respecting and cherishing the world around us.

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