Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“Up Under the Pine Rows,” a poem from Riehl’s “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary

I wanted to post this poem alongside my father's commentary on the hemlocks. Some of you may know it, but it gets deeper for me when I see it alongside the story of the two hemlocks. And, just a reminder that "Riehlife," the blog is the face page for "Riehlife" the website. If you go to the dashboard, under "Getting Around" you'll find static pages that contain more poems from the five sections of "Sightlines." This poem comes from the "Homeplace" section. While you're noodling around on the dashboard, take a peek at the "Talks from Readings" section as well.---JGR

Evergreen Heights sign


by Janet Grace Riehl
(from Sightlines: A Poet's Diary)

When I was little and ran away from home,
I ran under the pine rows up on the ridge.
Those Evergreen Heights of ours.
They all have white pine disease now.
It breaks my heart. The dead branches.

“That’s the tree I sang on as a boy,” Pop says,
on our stroll that has become an inspection walk.
The branch is a beauty,
a low curving upward horse of a branch.

Great Grandpa E. A. Riehl planted these pines.
Grandma Annie named her poems after them.
On the Heights.
God’s heights were the heights she came to know here,
seated underneath these evergreens
on the ridge overlooking the Mississippi.

She carried them
to the Korean Mission Field—and back.
Julia carried them to Europe to Russia to Africa
to Ellsworth Avenue in Pittsburgh—and back.
I carried them to Ghana to Botswana to Europe to Bhutan
to New Mexico to Northern California—and back.
Gary carries them 60 miles north to his lake
above Jacksonville—and back—and back—and back.

And so, when I was little and ran away from home,
with some food stuffed in my pockets,
quite naturally,
I ran under the pine rows up on the ridge.
Those Evergreen Heights of ours.
(Each time I swore it would be forever,
but my forevers never lasted more than an hour.)
I flung myself under that pony branch,
prayed it would rear its way over me as it
stampeded towards me. Flung myself face down
for my cry. Then faced upward towards the sky.

These pines are our mothers and aunts and sisters.
They are the resting place for ashes at the end.
And now, they too, are dying.

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  1. The solace the pines provided you when you had your play at running away from home...the anchor they provided each family member roaming the world...your father's playing on them as a boy...your great grandfather planting them...what a pine row is there...and what sadness to see them ailing and fading.

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