Gieve Patel's poem "On Killing a Tree" is deeper than the title would leave one to believe. While the depiction of a tree being killed is provided, it is justifiable that Patel is speaking about something very different. Therefore, the poem would be a metaphorical one.
The poem, overall, speaks to the fact that it is harder to kill a tree than "a simple jab of the knife." In the end, killing a tree is very difficult. One must pull the tree out by the roots, expose "the strength of the tree," and allow the sun and the air to choke the life out of it.
Therefore, in a critical analysis, one must understand that Patel is not only speaking about killing a tree. Instead, the poet is showing the difficulties one must face when trying to bring out feelings or emotions which lie deep inside. It is not until one can expose the emotions, for what they really are, that one can "kill" them.
The poem is beautifully written. It provides a metaphorical image for the strength that it takes to rid one's self of deeply buried feelings and emotions. Scratching the surface of the "tree" will not kill it.
Patel's poem provides beautifully honest language and imagery, while also providing beautifully conscious literal and figurative meanings. Critically, the poem speaks to the true meaning of what the poet wished to convey to the reader without being blatant with the message. Patel, obviously, wants to connect to readers who read more than just the surface.