A conifer next to a broadleaf tree, in a corner
of the garden, lonely like a dog and a cat
separated from kin to be household pets.
The landlady said she’d have to have it cut
down. She meant the pine, standing where
the two cedar hedges meet. The neighbors had
written to her saying they were concerned
about their safety. They’re right, she said,
nodding. See how the branches are hanging
over their passage? And what if it’s toppled
by a storm? But what about the birds and
the squirrels? my children protested.
What will happen to them? Where will
they go? Why doesn’t anyone think about
them? They were traumatized two summers
ago, seeing the landlady’s gardeners pollard
the walnut tree with an electric saw. Ask them
to stop, my son cried, I cannot stand it
anymore. He hadn’t seen the butchery
it had already endured. The trunk, sawed
off just above where it had started to
branch out in four sure directions, reduced
now to a wavering yelp of twigs. Perhaps
you can trim it a little? I meekly suggested.
Cutting it down won’t be right; won’t be good
for the Umwelt. She’d nodded; and later,
one of the neighbors who’d complained, told me
they didn’t want the tree to be cut down either.
Trimming the branches would do. She mentioned
the squirrels and the birds, and I the Umwelt.
But someone was sent to measure the trunk.
One of these days, I’m afraid, they’ll cut
the wretched tree down. And it won’t be,
come to think of it, too remarkable an event
either; the felling of a single tree against
the incalculable continents of forests we’ve felled
for thousands of years. And for all that carnage,
take heart, there are more lifeforms in
fistfuls of forest soil than people on the planet.
Only, its needles won’t sift the morning
sunlight onto the yard, and fifty-odd square meters
of the planet will miss its slow, gentle life.
And while the summer afternoons ablate
the garden’s memory of it, the soil, now rife
with leftover moisture, will mourn its roots’
aborted camaraderie. As for the moon,
it will circle the earth a few times, rising daily
to look, weeping, for that evergreen crown,
and then, at some point, it’ll give up and find
its perch on the walnut tree’s deciduous bough.
And the birds and the squirrels, if still alive,
will surely have found their new homes by now.