poem index

Willow

Jane Shore
It didn't weep the way a willow should.
Planted all alone in the middle of the field
by the bachelor who sold our house to us,
shoulder height when our daughter was born,
it grew eight feet a year until it blocked
the view through the first-, then the second-
story windows, its straggly canopy obstructing
our sunrise and moonrise over Max Gray Road.
I gave it the evil eye, hoping lightning
would strike it, the way a bolt had split
the butternut by the barn. And if leaf blight
or crown gall or cankers didn’t kill it, then
I'd gladly pay someone to chop it down.
My daughter said no, she loved that tree,
and my husband agreed. One wet Sunday—
the rainiest July since 1885—
husband napping, daughter at a matinee
in town—a wind shear barreled up the hill
so loud I glanced up from my mystery
the moment the willow leaned, bowed,
and fell over flat on its back, roots and all,
splayed on the ground like Gulliver.
The house shook, just once.
Later, when the sun came out, neighbors
came to gawk; they chain-sawed thicker
branches, wrapped chains around the trunk,
their backhoe ripped out pieces of stump
and root as if extracting a rotten tooth.
I'm not sorry that tree is gone. No one
ever sat under it for shade or contemplation.
Yet spring after spring it reliably leafed out.
It was always the last to lose its leaves
in fall. It should have died a decade ago
for all the grief I gave it, my dirty looks
apparently the fuel on which it thrived.
It must have done its weeping in private.
But now I can see the slope of the hill.
Did my wishful thinking cast a spell?
I was the only one on earth who saw it fall.

From That Said by Jane Shore. Copyright © 2012 by Jane Shore. Reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Jane Shore