Sunday with Trees


Carl Dennis

Tomorrow I may try again to persuade old Mr. Bitner,
Who lives in the blistered eyesore down the block,
That it’s time to invest in a little scraping and painting.
If he tells me again that his house is an accurate mirror
Of what he feels about himself—how his best years
Are long behind him—I may suggest that sometimes
Pretending to feel what one doesn’t feel
May brighten a mood. Or I’ll stress how grateful
All his neighbors will be if manages to lose himself
Now and then in the effort others are making
To make the block look less abandoned.
But today I don’t feel like lecturing anyone on civility.
I feel like taking a walk in the woods, among trees
Civil by nature, which warn each other by pheromones
When insects attack them, which use their roots
To send an infusion of sugars into the roots
Of their ailing neighbors. Lucky for me
All their sharing is done unconsciously
So they can escape any pride in their generosity
That might make their company a burden.
Tomorrow I may try to persuade the young couple
Across the street with three young children
Not to make the move they’re considering
To a block with more children. If they’re patient,
I’ll tell them, more families like theirs
Are bound to move in, drawn by their own
Pioneering spirit. In the meantime,
Their family is making their neighbors feel
They live in the midst of life, not at its margin.
But today, rather than lecture anyone about loyalty,
I want to walk among trees loyal by nature,
Trees impossible to seduce by an offer
Of a site more congenial just a mile away.
All are content to root down where they are.
No wonder the birds, knowing the trees will always
Give them a stable home, feel safe to indulge
Their flightiness. Do they know how lucky they are
That their landlords never ask for a penny in rent?
A question the trees are as far from asking
As they are from asking the birds to sing at least
One song a day to them and to no one else.