Poetry Sunday: “The Nurse Tree,” by Molly Peacock


The Nurse Tree
Why waste away in a box
when you could be a nurse tree?
That’s what they call dead logs:
mushroomeries of the woods.

Your living room’s a wood
of couches, books, and chairs.
You’re dead not at all, but
could you be preparing

for things to grow inside
the chest of the log
you plan to become:
cherished compost heap

where heat turns the brown
mess of feelings, sorry,
that’s peelings, into comp-o-
sition? For we who love

our hands in dirt, a leaf skirt
decomposing seems an ideal
station between this life and
next: I visit your room

as on a forest walk. Passing
a fallen log—is that you?—
I see a scarlet fungus cap
pop up from friable bark.


First published in Poetry Magazine, February 2016. Reprinted from The Analyst by Molly Peacock. Copyright © 2017 by Molly Peacock. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. The Analyst can be ordered here.



Molly Peacock is the author of The Analyst, a collection of poems that tell the story of a decades-long patient-therapist relationship that reverses and continues to evolve after the analyst’s stroke and reclamation of her life through painting. Other volumes of poetry include The Second Blush and Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems. Passionate about bringing poetry to a wider public, Peacock helped create Poetry in Motion on New York City’s subways and buses and inaugurated The Best Canadian Poetry series. She is also the author of the noted biography The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, named a Book of the Year by The Economist, The Globe and Mail, Booklist, The London Evening Standard, The Irish Times, and The Sunday Telegraph. A fellow of the Danforth, Ingram Merrill, and Woodrow Wilson Foundations, as well as the Leon Levy Center for Biography, and a recipient of grants from both the NEA and the Canada Council, Peacock also wrote and performed “The Shimmering Verge,” a one-woman theatre piece in poems. Women’s choices not to have children is one subject of the documentaries A Life Outside Convention and My So-Called Selfish Life by Therese Shechter of Trixie Films. Molly Peacock is married to the James Joyce scholar Michael Groden. They are based in Toronto and New York.


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  • Gail Willis May 14, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    What a perfect choice today. Best wishes to all who write, read, edit or simply
    savor WVFC. Blessings for whatever form your mothering of others has taken.

    • Molly Peacock May 14, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks so much for this comment, Gail Willis. I realize that so many women’s relationships have nurtured me–and I hope to send that back out into the world.