The tree has no choice but to have its heart
exposed as I coax my mother to sleep.
Deep below ground insects call to each other
in perpetual darkness, this new life traded
for another, this useless chipped sawdust
collected in a pile while my mother
tears at her clothes, discards them in public.
Cowboys wrestle with the chainsaw, grinding
Included in the price for removal.
As if loneliness can be thrown in for nothing
as if the trunk is satisfied to be unable to grow
while I plant and cook and tuck her in.
But if she wakes, or thinks she does
she won’t be able to tell me the tree is gone
she only knows something alive is missing.
The blue and gray afternoon, the swamp maple
snapped in two in the middle of Lark Lane
the lights flashing at each corner to ward off
homeowners from turning too quickly onto
their street, loaves of bread or containers
of milk about to turn from the heat, perhaps
they think of the evening and what could
they say of the day, now that they can’t get home.
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Nina Israel Zucker is a poet and teacher. She has taught Creative Writing at Rowan University and has been a leader for the Spring/Fountain series offered to educators in New Jersey for 10 years. She also teaches Spanish for the Cherry Hill School District. Her work has appeared in US1 Worksheets, the anthology POETS AGAINST THE WAR, ed. Sam Hamill, the New York Times feature on the Dodge Poetry Festival and many other publications. She received her MFA from Columbia University.