NOTE: "Chinese Sequoia" was written several years ago and the tree grows larger and continues in its determination to find its way into our house--and into our lives. But we've decided sometimes there's nothing to be done, even when you figured there was. The poem was originally published in the late, lamented, Midnight Circus and later in my chapbook, Exactly Like Love (Osedax Press). For more recent traumas--domestic and otherwise--my full-length book, The Story of the Milkman and other poems is very much available from Truth Serum Press. I'm very much available, though not always up-to-date at alanwalowitz.com
She said it’s like an umbrella beginning to open.
I said it’s like the forearm of God ready to smite.
Hell of a tree, the inspector said,
but not on a fifty by a hundred lot
and not on the narrowest sliver next to the house.
School was starting; our daughter turning five;
what could we do but settle
and deal with the tree in time?
Legend has it the folks who’d planted it
went to war over trees.
The jilted husband
came in silence in the dawning hours,
dug up the weeping mulberry,
a specimen he’d planted out front,
hauled it off, and replaced it with
a common blue spruce.
Even then the sequoia wouldn’t budge—
nor all the times since it’s been marked for death:
lightning’s struck; the neighbor’s chopped away the roots in a show of righteous impatience.
We let the vines strangle the trunk
hoping for a slow, silent end.
We’ve called the tree guy to prune
so it might be tamed
at the mere sight of his chainsaw
and studded shoes.
Now the roots have pulled up the neighbor’s driveway
and are working on our porch,
as it makes its way into the basement
and its low branches into our daughter’s room.
A baby, the tree guy says each time he comes.
Wouldn’t it be a shame?
Four thousand bucks he wants
to leave an empty hole where it was.
But maybe now’s the time to take it down,
our daughter almost grown and gone.
Still, how lovely it is in winter,
leaves mostly fallen, a few hanging on,
sepia-stenciled against the low steel sky;
how people stop while walking,
see it and say, it’s a wonder
how they live, the way it looms over everything.
The trunk, growing fat around itself,
shows no signs of slowing, now just a foot away.
We’re only a moment in sequoia-time—
who are we to say what we can own?
© 2019 Alan Walowitz
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