Low Tide

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 2 1996 3:30 AM

Low Tide

Tree of heaven,
the ailanthus so graceful
and disparaged. The "garbage tree."
Who notices its rhythm
in downtown alleys or gritty
abandoned lots. Junk tree,
at home in soot.

(And why
would I think of it
this minute, walking head down
on the flats, the peculiar hermit crabs
scrabbling away from me, manifest
hysteria in the pearly August
day?)

Undesirable now,
but once carried--precious
cargo--from China for ornament,
for shade. For its tropical attitude.
Ailanthusaltissima. Last choice
anywhere other trees grow:
limbs easily broken;

poisonous roots
invaders of drains
and wells; awful-smelling male
flowers. Allergies. Hay
fever. Disparaged,
undesirable
but still,

graceful,
if you'd look at them
with any sympathy, or hope of pleasure.
Here to stay. Here
to stay.

(See how
these little crabs
haul their appropriated
snaily shells into a
blue voracious
bay ...)

Gail Mazur's third book of poetry, The Common, was published in 1995.

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