I've destroyed Little Maple.

Strictly speaking, I paid someone to do it.


Friends said, "It needs to come out."
Landscaper said, "The bigger it gets,
the more expensive it'll be to take out."
And the kids would be
spending their inheritance
getting the house ready to sell.

Tiny leaves of maple-shape
when it sprouted
just where I wanted a tree.
So still it seemed to meditate,
one branch a little lower.

Admit it, I was less attached when
it shot up to that gangly
thirteen-foot stage.

I walk past the stump
that shows the curve from when
wind toppled it
and I righted it
and feel nothing.

And check it for new sprouts
to tear off.

I feel cold, remote
jerking away ivy's vines of
heart-shaped leaves
mounded on the fence,
ripping out celandine's
yellow blooms, wavy leaves,
white-fuzzed stems,
orange roots snuggled under kale,
cutting off honeysuckle flowers
twined over the quince,
yanking up every last fragile snapweed stem
threaded through the pebbles.

Some gardeners, hewing, hacking, leveling,
feel a welcome
release of violent emotions.

I like to see a tall brush pile,
a tidy flower border,
nightshade vines' fat leaves, plump berries
in the waste bucket.
I regret
uprooting, tossing
bright tender little stems bursting forth
so new, so fresh.

They're weeds.

My stomach turned over
when I discovered my yard help
had cleared overhanging branches
from all the paths.

She needs to be able to sweep!

And cut off three milkweed stalks.

She's keeping walkers safer from bee stings.

And threw the low branch of Little Maple
on the brush heap, tearing my chest.

She saved me a bouquet of phlox that broke
while she pruned forsythia.
And brought indoors the milkweed globes
so fragrant
from the stalks she cut down.

Beauty aches.

Shiva dances.
Smeared with cremation ash,
a garland of human skulls whirling,
us to death and rebirth.

Dances our dread

Dances dissolution.
Impossible to destroy.
All die into something new.

This garden is like that carnival game:
it sprouts little heads; we bash them down;
and they pop up in a new place.

I laugh while I cry.

Care to dance?

Illustration: Shiva as Lord of the Dance, Chola period, 10th/11th century, India, Tamil Nadu, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago, Kate S. Buckingham Fund