At the end of Eighty-eighth,
across from the museum and as west as east
will take you to the park from Gracie Mansion.
Before the lightning brought it down,
before it fell at evening rush hour,
before another summer burned the money
off its leaves, before
it put a sudden stop to traffic,
you could stand here late at night
in the middle of the street
and watch it grow,
the outer darker skin
flaking to the bone bark underneath.
It was probably too tall,
and filled too easily with wind,
too brilliantly with rain
and ice and snow.
And probably its roots were shallow
with the sidewalk, the breakable
high branches threatening.
Maybe it was thirty, thirty-five years old,
planted in the forties, after war,
and because of where it was,
flowering like a blessing,
allowed its larger seasons.
In 1979, sempiternal and a year,
the city was a buyer’s market,
if you already owned
and had a million in the bank.
Mornings the gold coin of the sun
rose from the East River, set in the Hudson.
These hybrids of the sycamore
lined all the avenue along the park.
If a tree falls in the forest…
If a tree has no witness…
A hundred of us saw it hit and fall.
Fall slow enough no one near was caught.
First the thunderbolt thrown straight
at its carved heart, then
the killing blood-spurt of a fire.
It was cut up and gone within an hour,
though the evidence of its absence almost lasted.
How many times I leaned against its length,
waiting for the crossing light to change.