This poem will undoubtedly recall to some readers the famous Frost poem Birches. Honestly, it has little to do with it.

In fact, Shinny concerns a somewhat older boy than Frost had in mind, one for whom the upper branches of a neighborhood tree were the perfect place to perpetrate a secretive adolescent rite we all practice but never admit to. There is a clearer statement of the events in question in another poem of mine, Gladiola.

I have marked it a sonnet, though its fourteen lines are in slant-rhymed couplets, not any of the traditional sonnet forms.


I was a boy myself once so don’t need
much told me about trees. I know to hide
in their boughs and filch their illicit fruit
before it falls to the ground and takes root.
I know to shinny up high then clamber
to where branches thin and the climber
feels a pit suddenly yawn in his guts,
up where twigs extend to buds, where height hurts.
Something about a tree doesn’t really mind
the theft of its fruit. A tree is resigned
to a boy swaying in his tenuous
crotch, dizzy at his chosen precipice.
Something about a tree wants to be climbed.
Something about a boy wants to climb it.