When I look raise my eyes above my computer monitor & look out the window of my study I can see the branches of a dogwood tree with upright clusters of dark blue berries. (This is the tree the warbler I mentioned a couple of days ago has been hanging out.) When the a shaft of sunlight shines on the dogwood the red stems look like they are filled with pulsing blood. Again & again the world reminds me lately that I am not the only living thing or even the most important. Such human bias is inevitable, I suppose, & is a bias no doubt shared by warblers & chipmunks & crows; still, human being, dasein, carries with it the potential for imagination, for ecstasy, for seeing outside ourselves. Not many people cultivate this aspect of their nature & even those who think about such things (disreputable poets, mostly) rarely have the ability to sustain the perspective for long. I've long been reluctant to grant human consciousness any superiority over various other forms of consciousness -- certainly we have no moral claim that reaches any higher than a crow's or dogwood's -- but there is, I think, the difference granted us by our language: the ability to imagine others' minds. That is, we have the ability to entertain the reality of other minds even if we cannot fully understand or enter into them. This seems to be our gift, though we may share it with the crows. In any case, the crows' dasein would have to be different from our own: they can fly.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “Dogwood”


    To live with nothing
    in it for ourselves

    to love the world
    as an experience
    of being

    reality everywhere
    only a reality
    of beings

    the relation of
    the relation of
    one to another

    the world still
    working vigorously
    upon us.

Comments are closed.