Monday, July 27, 2015

Black Walnut Tree

Nothing grows beneath the black walnut tree, now a hundred
feet high. We feel overmatched by it and, if we're honest,
cowed. While we weren’t looking, its influence spread
over much of the backyard, juglone dripping
from its dagger-like leaves to sicken
every petunia, pansy, or prim-
rose set naively in the stocks
of its shade. Every new green
line of sod turned white.
We have no evidence
to support our suspicions
that bratty neighbor
children swinging
beneath its branches
never returned home. 
Our own long ago grew
safely alongside, by late 
summer their hands 
stained brown from games
of marbles and boules
with fallen hulls, their 
faces and limbs after 
lying along its large 
branches in the sun.
Once, before we could 
shush him, move him 
safely out of the hammock 
and away, my wife’s 
brother, offering to make 
an entire dining set
for us from its warm, 
durable wood if we 
would only leave him 
scraps for a gunstock or two—
vanished, I swear, the hammock
swaying gently in a lemon-scented breeze.