Ailanthus, Tree of Heaven

Penistree, 2010, Acrylic and oil, Michele Marcoux

By Sheila Black

He could have split them, each with a memory of the other,
And put them each into a separate world – Mark Jarman

I did not know for a long time
how those trees came to be or why my
neighbor called them “suckers,” then
spat on the frozen pavement.
In spring I almost loved them, the weeping
fronds, lily pale “but with an
unpleasant odor.”  It would take me equally
long to disabuse myself of the
notion that you were the shining world,
the tree of heaven to which I
might aspire.  They colonized my yard,
I mean, each root
a branch under the earth, the twilight
side in which the tree so tendriled,
frail is seen in its true form, a monster,
a ladder of rungs leading nowhere,
blossom-stars like candles going out in a
deep water.  And yet I would recall
you as the ailanthus remakes itself
from the smallest live shoot,
sucker, moving out again through its
worm- tunneled earth and up
towards a heaven, for which it reaches,
merciless, with its multiple arms.