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The question of evil poem

by Brooke

Palm, originally uploaded by brookewill.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Palm Trees

Take this one: transplanted as an adult,
chosen to landscape the grounds of the church.
It must have been a good palm tree.
Done something right
made good decisions—
its life plan set in front of it
promises of being fulfilled.
By all appearances, a good tree.

Perhaps it felt dissonance
in the expectations
at some point—
with the wind blowing sea breezes and
scents stirring a kind of memory
(if a tree has a memory)—
realization set in: it didn’t want
this prescribed pattern of being
fixed and final.
And so it could not perform anymore.
It hit like a raindrop,
suddenly but without much notice
not enough to make a splash.

The gradual deterioration
illness setting in—
Driving past we could tell it wasn’t flourishing
anymore, (had it ever been?)
Now weak enough
to die.

Every other tree remained green, able
to focus
having retained
the ability to photosynthesize
in this garden.


I am a children's librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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9 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I love it, Brooke!

    Is this, by any chance, about that poor palm that died on the temple grounds? Mike and I always thought it was so funny/sad to see it there without it’s branches, in all its phallic glory.

  2. suzann says:

    Brooke, I love this poem. It fits for me as I am struggling to photosynthesize in my ward garden.

  3. Jana says:

    Yah, I know exactly which tree you’re talking about. 🙂 It disappeared awhile ago and was replaced with a healthier tree, right?

    When I was a teen and I was learning to drive in the church parking lot, I accidentally hit a young tree and took out a big chunk of its trunk with the front end of my Mom’s car. Even years later, I would return and trace the indentation in the bark, thinking about the tree’s resilience. It’s a silly thing, but it mattered for some reason.

  4. Brooke says:

    Yes, you know the very tree, Jana and Caroline. I always thought it was funny and said I would write about it. Well, it took me long enough to finally do it. Jana, have you written about your tree?

    Suzann, I’m glad to hear when my poems are relatable. I hope your struggle ends with success: with friendship, the opening of hearts & of understanding.

  5. Jana says:

    I should write the story of my tree, shouldn’t I? Hmmmm….

  6. Jessawhy says:

    I love the poem.
    It is a wonder how some things thrive and others don’t. . .

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Love this, Brooke–it feels like a Billy Collins’ poem if he was from the West Coast.

  8. G says:

    beautiful poem.
    poor tree.

    “every other tree remained green, able to focus, having retained the ability to photosynthesize…”

    wow. yah.

  9. Kiri Close says:

    awesome poem.

    but trees never die. they continue on eternally in different forms, as perhaps all things do.

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