One Tree by Philip Metres
They wanted to tear down the tulip tree, our neighbors, last year. It throws a shadow over their vegetable patch, the only tree in our backyard. We said no. Now they’ve hired someone to chainsaw an arm—the crux on our side of the fence—and my wife, in tousled hair and morning sweat, marches to stop the carnage, mid-limb. It reminds her of her childhood home, a shady place to hide. She recites her litany of no, returns. Minutes later, the neighbors emerge. The worker points to our unblinded window. I want to say, it’s not me, slide out of view behind a wall of cupboards, ominous breakfast table, steam of tea, our two young daughters now alone. I want no trouble. Must I fight for my wife’s desire for yellow blooms when my neighbors’ tomatoes will stunt and blight in shade? Always the same story: two people, one tree, not enough land or light or love. Like the baby brought to Solomon, someone must give. Dear neighbor, it’s not me. Bloom-shadowed, light-deprived, they lower the chainsaw again.