I delay the moment, paused, clippers in hand,
local fire marshal demands I clip lower branches
from the pine to make us safe –
fear of a spectral spark
driven by the howling Santa Ana winds.
But those lovely limbs, full of springy life
sit innocent, unaware of my murderous intent.
How often, in a brief life, do we make
such life-or-death decisions for creatures,
other than ourselves, creatures not torn
by internal conflict, creatures that simply
When we thin the radishes, the arugula,
which hopeful sprout do we wrench and toss?
To promote the other?
What of the ground squirrel that savors
my tomato? Must he go too? Is his life settled by
my hunger or arbitration?
The price of his life?
When I was a child, my brother told my mother:
“She cries when she walks outside because
she feels sorry for the grass.”
A budding Jainist in a Colorado chinook.
How does one decide ethics
of poisoning the ant to save the eggplant?
Who is the victor and who is the damned?
Is it a question of who or what serves me?
and where do I fit in,
in this war between what is desired
and who wins the spoils?
Still paused, I watch the supple limbs, green
and proud, bounce and shake
as the breeze tickles them to life.
I fling the clippers into the tall grass
Hope I didn’t hit a cocoon or beetle,
Leap from stone to stone until
I’m safe inside.