By Wendy Barker
“Trash,” he said, as we walked the line
between our almost-country properties.
Again I pointed, trees and shrubs
whose names I didn’t know, but “trash,”
he said again. Anything not oak.
That neighbor knew three kinds of trees:
live, pin, and Spanish oak. The rest should go.
And now I’ve lived here twenty years
I know how chainsaws take out everything
that isn’t oak, not just the junipers
that choke the other plants nearby, but also
Texas buckeyes, magenta blooming in
the spring, redbuds, huisachillo, sweet acacia.
Mexican persimmon’s bark blends velvet
grays and silky browns, its rounded leaves
bright yellow-green before the purple fruit
draws birds that nest on into June—
buntings and the wrens above the grasses,
gramas and the bluestems. November,
the seed heads in waves of burgundy, of red.
Our city council said they’d leave the trees
when clearing for the city hall. But like
that neighbor years ago, they meant
the oaks. Now they’ve called a meeting.
Oak wilt has hit the neighborhood, and
oaks are what we’re left with. Too much
construction, trimming of the trees, their
wounds not treated. The virus travels
through the maze of connecting roots.
And once a tree’s infected, it’s trash.