Lone Elm (#36)

I asked an old friend to
Help me identify a tree
I had never seen before,
And I think we were both

Surprised when she said
—Hesitatingly at first, then
With cautious wonder—
“I… I want to say it’s an elm,”

Both of us knowing it
Defied logic, odds,
Aware of how the disease
Had arrived long ago, killing

Ninety nine thousand
Nine hundred and ninety nine
Elms for every one remaining,
As here, rooted, solitary. Alive.

Who knows how?
How we stay friends,
I mean, knowing what
We think we know,

That life goes on,
So busy, so bothered, so
When the phone rings,
And the voice, carefully

Composed, bridging
Distance, decades,
Cracks—In a single syllable,
Our world falls, fathomless,

While the lucky elm, miraculous,
Feels the sun on its leaves,
The rain on its roots, and,
Missing no one, misses nothing.

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