Kevin put one hand on bare wood,
the other on discolored bark.
It's dying a slow death.
Nothing is moving up or down:
Like terminal arterial sclerosis.

He pointed at a big girdling root
that has driven itself
through the tree's heart,
sealing its fate.
We looked up at leaves
thinning like a chemo patient's hair.
Kevin tore off a big piece
of red-and-yellow-striped plastic ribbon,
tied it around the trunk—
a notice of extinction,
A small branch fell by his feet.

Today, two men with ropes and chainsaws
dismember the tree from its crown to the ground.
Their chipper's diesel whine
drowns out any final moans
as it grinds everything
from twigs to huge hunks,
spews a stream of shredded bones.

The men rake, sweep, leave only
wet sawdust, skeletal roots,
a ringed vestige of the stump
as flat grave marker,
morning sun where there used to be shade,
a small scrap of striped ribbon.

["Death of the Maple" was also published in Untamed Ink, Volume I, Spring 2008, Lindenwood University and Honorable Mention, Missouri Writers' Guild 2007 Winter Writing Contest.]

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