Bastille Day—

Cutting Down the Great Tree Next Door

This was no constitutional Monarch to be deposed
by willful renovators who rattle off
the cost of fiberglass shingles and aluminum gutters,
but a Sun King who ruled
by divine right and natural law—
toppled because his eminent domain
was both roof and foundation of his neighbors.
Now they nod their heads in unison as in prayer
at the last thud of a fallen crown.

White limbs of sycamore
like thighs of someone sheltered from the sun
lie about the yard—while half its torso
roped by the executioner
stands stricken dumb.
“All your light tongues talking aloud” . . .
now that’s done.

With my head full of live roots, I think I should
stun myself with wormwood, lop off an ear,
or leap out of my window like Esenin in a trance—
not weep like a child at this kitchen butcher block
while someone’s dousing of amiable common sense
like lighter fuel on charcoal
ignites a limb impaled upon our fence.

Not even firewood will come of all this hacking,
only the empty places
soon to be filled with holes
of our own making.

Maxine Cassin
from her book The Other Side of Sleep
Portals Press, 1995

Used with permission of the poet’s estate.

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