Variations: Psalm 1


the arborist arrived at noon

smally perspiring in drips and drops from his

forehead, summer already parching, perching like a

laughing parrot. i offered him a glass of water, which he

gulped gluttonously and would have taken

intravenously, had it been an option.

We make our way out to the yard, and even in

the shade the heat lies in wait like a

merciless unseen assassin. He has already seen the

reason i called: the graying bark, no longer rich and

earthy brown, the paper bag leaves rotting like

landfill trash, brittle branches splintering under

no weight but their own. Where years before the ground had been

littered with acorns now there are only sticks, leaves,

kindling. He shakes his head and

frowns sadly. Across the street are

oaks older and wiser, still flourishing flowering even

late into waterless summer. His gaze is

pitiful, intense,

careworn when he looks at me. Unfortunately, he says,

there is nothing to be done. It cannot be saved. Suddenly i am

frowning too, missing its shade now more than ever.

Why then, i say, are those trees across the way still

so vibrant and alive? He pauses, and his response is

measured, precise, and

unfaltering. Water, he says. This tree is dying from

a tainted supply. Whatever source they are tapped into

across the street must be

different, cleaner,


His work done, he is back in his car,

onto his next job, and i retire to my living room,

welcoming the cool of air conditioning.

A week later the oak is chopped down,

rooted up, and ground into

firewood, leaving in its place

a gaping hole in my yard.


Author’s note: Thus begins a series of poems of which i just conceived last night, which simply entails writing variations on existing poetry. i cannot say how long it will be, nor how many variations i intend to make, but if it proves successful then i imagine i will write quite a few. Criticisms, as always, are warranted and appreciated.

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