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Reader Submissions

Well-Known Corners of the People


Melinda Smith

Pistacia Chinensis, Autumn, Southern Hemisphere, 2020

Something always has to give. It happened

late summer, in those weeks of smoke, 

fires in three directions, that acrid air, 

that all-day, dirty grey fug. The old tree

in the neighbour‘s yard, the broad pistachio

dropped a limb, drought-struck, losing

perhaps a fifth of its crown. Down it sighed, 

see-sawing over our fence, and lay, a wrecked 

ribcage, for days. Then came the chainsaws, 

the bark-paint; the former branches 

shuddering into the mulcher, never to return. 

A new gap in the canopy opens

to high mid-continent sky, now blue again, 

now endless, hungry. Ever since, 

the pistachio has been watching things

more intently, it has seen the people staying

put in the houses, the children’s noses always 

at the windows, it has seen visitors coming 

with covered faces, standing far apart. Even now, 

after months of clear air, deep rains, gentler sun,

it struggles, bare twigs at the end of its branches, 

like unshaven stubble. Something has shifted —

‘for good’, as they say. The suffering is sudden, 

complicated. Permanent. But the last of the leaves 


have turned magnificently: russet, gold, cherry red; 

today it showers them into the bright air, joyful

spinning ticker-tape, a gift for no one in particular,

preparing to meet winter, its wife, 

                         tumbling confetti by the fistful.

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