Ailanthus: a poem

By John Marin

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AILANTHUS

Please take a moment and think about the Ailanthus.

No-one plans it.
No-one plants it.
No-one waters,
Or prunes,
Or sprays it,
Or gives it plant food or weed killer or even manure.
It squeezes between tall buildings,
Through sidewalk gratings,
And cracks in concrete,
And in angles of fences where mowers can’t reach it.

It survives
Unassisted, and thrives.
It stands up to road salt,
And car fumes,
And dog piss,
And the hardened indifference of big-city life.
Only let it be:
And it will sink deep roots,
And form stout branches,
And cast a shade as good as that of any planted tree.

The Ailanthus is all unwanted children
And the adults they become.
It’s those who got adopted
And those who never did.
It’s those who learn their origins
And those who never will.

It’s the kids who glut the System
And call it Home:
In orphanages,
In nurseries,
And in foster homes,
Waiting for chance to graft them onto someone’s family tree.

The Ailanthus,
Laughing at rejection,
Sings out:
“I was born a bastard,
What’s your excuse?”,
Then turns its leaves to the sun,
And grows.

Please take a moment and think about the Ailanthus.

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[“Ailanthus” (C)1996 by Jonathan Marin]
[Reproduced with permission of author]


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