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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