Living Under Eucalyptus

Those towering creatures,
providers of shade
and the vital illusion of woods—
they’ve grown willful again.
Enraged by the wind,
they pelt us with bark and branches,
with rock-hard acorns that rain down the roof,
skipping and bouncing till they fall to the porch
with a sound like a cracked skull.
There is no possibility of sleep.
The wind in the leaf-crown
surges like a great ocean.

By day they look down on us kindly,
marking our lot in deliberate rows,
whispering of the past
and the people who built this place.
Some have arms intertwined like lovers,
their skin streaked in muted colors,
red-brown and gray-brown, flesh and green.
Their bark drapes and hangs like a strange cloth.
The mat they’ve laid at our perimeter
rustles with deer or squirrel or the smallest bird,
lets no one approach by stealth.

Then night comes with its wind again,
and they tear their bark in a fury,
hurling it down in shreds.
The huge trunks moan and strain;
falling limbs play the aerial like a Jew’s harp.
I tell myself the roots are deep,
that the trees cannot come down,
but their branches crash like mortar fire.
We are under siege.
In the morning, we’ll walk out to find
the porch shin-deep in litter,
the gutters bent and battered, brimful of leaves,
a dead limb straddling a lawn chair like a warning.

This poem first appeared in Cimarron Review, Issue 158, Winter 2007. It was written quite a number of years before that, but it remains close to home—literally. Even as I type, the wind is setting up that roar in the treetops; the acorns (which are not truly acorns, but seed pods) will soon be bouncing down the roof.

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