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"To be a Tree" by Crista Fiala

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

To be a Tree

Crista Fiala, University of Saint Joseph

Artist Statement: With this poem, I set out to play with the inextricable relationship between language and nature. We often see this relationship when we reflexively talk about our own languages, such as with linguistics. I designed this poem so that the readers can interpret each line in two different ways. These lines describe how the term “to be” functions in English at the same time that they describe how a tree functions in our environment. Overall, “To be a Tree” unveils how not only are language and nature vitally interconnected but that we must take care of both to maintain a world full of life.


A copula, sometimes an auxiliary for existence

Life always in its starting form: infinitive

A compound morpheme

An individual “be,” free; The root(s) affix (in)to “being”

To be - a structure for recursion:

To be a tree is to be a tree is to be…

Be a tree - the imperative

So that the tree may continue to be - what is imperative?

To answer the interrogative, as the imperative may be too much to bear

[the weight of the leaves, the flowers & the fruits],

The subjunctive may need to be considered first.

If it were no longer here as the generative structure of life, such as when

“The tall tree quickly grew,” as a simple sentence mapped out on a branched syntactic diagram.

We would then witness a return to the indicative, a final alteration in conjugation

A termination to its infinitive nature

A suppletion: was.


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