| July 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Jonathan Marin (Copyright 1996)

Ailanthus is the tree species colloquially known here in New York City as the “tenement palm”. The City plants thousands of nursery-raised trees every year, largely to replace trees they planted just a few years before. Many of these carefully planted and cared-for species never seem to get past the “outdoor house-plant” stage. Ailanthus, however, just sprout up naturally, often where a tree is least wanted. Unless someone actually cuts them down, they mature into damn fine trees.



Please take a moment and think about the Ailanthus.

No-one plans it.
No-one plants it.
No-one waters,
Or prunes,
Or sprays it,
Or gives it plant food or weed killer or even manure.
It squeezes between tall buildings,
Through sidewalk gratings,
And cracks in concrete,
And in angles of fences where mowers can’t reach it.

It survives
Unassisted, and thrives.
It stands up to road salt,
And car fumes,
And dog piss,
And the hardened indifference of big-city life.
Only let it be:
And it will sink deep roots,
And form stout branches,
And cast a shade as good as that of any planted tree.

The Ailanthus is all unwanted children
And the adults they become.
It’s those who got adopted
And those who never did.
It’s those who learn their origins
And those who never will.

It’s the kids who glut the System
And call it Home:
In orphanages,
In nurseries,
And in foster homes,
Waiting for chance to graft them onto someone’s family tree.

The Ailanthus,
Laughing at rejection,
Sings out:
“I was born a bastard,
What’s your excuse?”,
Then turns its leaves to the sun,
And grows.

Please take a moment and think about the Ailanthus.


[“Ailanthus” (C) 1996 by Jonathan Marin]

Category: Poetry

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