Every night she stared through the thin slits of her blinds
out to the branches that contorted in the hollowing wind.
She wasn’t afraid, but maybe she wished she was,
for at least then she would be feeling something at all.
Patiently, she waited for the waves of exhaustion that washed over her throughout the day,
stripping her of smiles and spontaneity, to return and amount to a peaceful sleep.
But how could there be peace at night when the tree writhed outside her window
and there were hungry people and sick people and sad people and lonely people?
She somehow felt all of it and none of it;
why couldn’t she be amazed, appalled, cry?
That tree was rooted in her stomach, its limbs reaching up into her chest
and choking back her words.
It scattered its dried up, crunchy leaves beside her heart
and buried her imagination beneath them.
Sometimes she forgot to breathe but then she remembered
the times before the tree
and thought maybe there could be a time after the tree and that she would be alright.
What she truly yearned to do was go out into the night
and run her fingers along the crevices of its crusty bark,
pile its leaves in her palms,
and hear its creaky bones sway in the wind.
Maybe then, up close, she could see all it had become
and understand why it was there and why it was shaping her into someone she wasn’t before.
It would all become so clear, she suspected,
if she could simply stop thinking all together and just experience it.
But how could she,
when the night was sharp and bitter,
and she didn’t know who she could trust below the black sky?