The maple

Twenty years, more, moss has been climbing that tree, a dirty velvet skirt. It’s the only tree in the backyard, and I’ve yet to see it flush with leaves. The other plants are fine: day lilies and daisies, bulky hydrangeas and powder puff chrysanthemums. Those are the only organic things not recovering from self-infliction. The tree, though, an old maple, is this dead stalk in the middle of the yard, and the moss climbs in patches, frothing green, embracing the dead. There’s a metaphor there, kind of obvious, but everyone here is healing and the tree is just another reminder that there is always death in the midst of simple patterns. We aren’t expected to thrive, and none of us do, but to recover. The cobblestoned yard is another reminder. A step at a time.

The cynical me wonders if they killed the tree on purpose. Fuck, it’s part of the logo on their sign, and would be on all the brochures if they could afford them. Coop, the janitor, sweeps the cobblestones every morning, and I’ll bet it’s hard on his old feet, all those uneven surfaces and dirt between the cracks. But he does it every day. Then he takes the hose and washes it clean. Every goddamn day.

Or maybe I see signs in everything: a dead tree, grubby puke-stained cobblestones, people like me who sit on a bench and watch it all happen. I’ve been here before, two-or-three days at a time, and it’s always the same. Even the visitors are the same, and the sickness. Do we go to other places in our head, to salvage something inside us, something better, something noble, or are we all wandering between the spaces? Am I a cowboy? It’s there, I feel it. I feel the hard dirt under my boots, and a vast beige land that flows past the horizon. Or is this me, staring at a dead tree, watching the moss give it some semblance of life?

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