Poem: Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

It’s that time again, when walking through certain Toronto neighbourhoods fills your nose with the scent of the black locust tree. These trees are all around the city, originally planted because their hard wood was useful for farm implements. They have a bad-mannered habit of spreading themselves around. You can see them, for example, sprouting between the subway tracks at Rosedale Station. But their drooping clusters of white flowers can smell sooo wonderful.

A few years ago, a poem of mine about the black locust (in fact, about the tree in the picture above) was published in Descant Magazine. Here it is:

black locust
(Robinia pseudoacacia)

You should have been a man’s axe handle;
or a thousand stout spade stocks, stained

by sweat and dirt and blistered skin;
muscled levers of the soil, muscled

as your bark, gnarling at winter traffic
from this loveless strip of land, between

these pilons and those gas pumps. Here,
by seed and root, you have escaped

to rattle your tarnished jewellery;
hobbled, burnt black by winter rain.

Yet, come June, you will emerge
once more; perfumed as a courtesan,

beaded as a bride. You’ll weep,
you’ll overflow, you’ll let down your milk.


  1. It's a spring must to drive down Rosedale Valley Road in the evening in June, with windows rolled down. Heaven for the nose.

  2. I love your poem~fantastic imagery! Last June a Lurie Garden gardener said they were removing some because they were a little to aggressive and popping up quite far away from the tree. gail

  3. Your poem describes the tree perfectly. The post is as usual relevant to the season and of course, wrapped up with the lovely fragrance of Black locust.

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