The young ailanthus tree grew in a narrow yard
behind a row house in a block that faced the boulevard.
You knew with just a glance it never would grow tall,
and yet its wagging shadow loomed immense upon the wall.
It quavered in a breeze. It tottered in a blast.
I’d see it battered to the earth after a storm had passed.
Yet always it would rise, and to its limbs would cling
wet heavy snows in wintertime and half-grown cats in spring.
In summer, lush and green, it seemed to dance and smile
as though it were a jacaranda on some tropic isle.
I grew along with it. In our hot yard I played
beside that tree of heaven, and I rested in its shade.
With eager multi-fingered hands it reached out ever higher
till one day they attained the height of the high tension wire.
And still another day, urban renewal came,
all of the houses with their trees leveling in its name.
Nobody else would know, in viewing the debris,
that here once lived a family, and there once stood a tree.
Together we were young, in many ways akin,
and so I mourn the emptiness where once a tree had been;
and, facing harsh adversity, I yearn to be imbued
with something that I sorely need, ailanthus fortitude.