Vox Populi

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Judith Sanders: Cherry Tree Elegy

A freak tornado had snapped its aged limbs,

one angled like a lap where our son had nestled,

sheltered by green in summer, copper in fall. 

Every spring the balled fists of baby buds

uncurled into an extravaganza of blossoms,

shimmery pink against the bright blue sky.

Silky petals rimmed pearly centers

with notched and pleated corollas.

A thirty-foot tree, garlanded in rosettes--

It was as delicate and breathtaking

as if ballerinas wreathed in tutus

had twirled into our yard.

We’d host a cherry blossom festival.

In the tree’s festooned pavilion, we’d serve

iced cherry juice and warm cherry pie.

Children pelted the crumpled confetti

of fallen petals.  Neighbors complimented us

as if we’d done anything but marvel.


A week after the tornado, a neighbor asked,

Is your garden fixed yet?

I said, Check back in sixty years. 

She said, You know the parable?

An old man planting a tree was asked why,

since he wouldn’t live to see it grow.

He replied, for those who’ll follow.

I don’t know who buried the cherry pit

with my future tree compacted inside,

but I’ll pay it forward, plant a new sapling,

a skinny little thing, barely able 

to cast a line of shade, or support a bird,

much less a child, who, in any case,

is grown now, and doesn’t

climb trees anymore.


Up rumbles the flatbed with the chipper.

Guys hooded in hardhats

yank the chokes on chainsaws.

With a roar, they amputate

the broken limbs and slash

the mutilated trunk

which crashes over

and, for the first time in decades,

raw sunlight pours in.

Copyright 2021 Judith Sanders

Judith Sanders poems have appeared widely in journals including The American Scholar and Modern Language Studies. She lives in Pittsburgh.

Photo: Tree Service

One comment on “Judith Sanders: Cherry Tree Elegy

  1. Barbara Huntington
    September 22, 2021

    And we keep planting trees

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Poetry and tagged , , .

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