What if Isaac Newton Sat Under a Fig Tree?


    Keeping Botany at Bay

There’s a crab-apple tree
Beside a parking lot
In the Old Mill Park
That has gaping holes
Where branches used to be
And aren’t, for whatever reason.

The largest hole is the lowest one
Maybe a meter above the ground
Where the tree once forked in two.
If I had to guess I’d say
Many years ago the northern tine
Snapped off from bearing its own weight.
Irony of Ironies.
Even in the floral world.

The landscapers who made the park
Likely cleared the broken limbs
Though the scar screams inattention
To tending any wounds.
Which decayed like stumps of gangrenous humans
Until the Nature of the tree Itself
Fought back, scarred over, healed itself
And if a human healed that way
We would laud her courage and her
Strength of Will but because
Crab-apple is a plant
We say it’s Nature’s Way.

And have the gall to personify Nature.

We think we’re pretty hot shit
Just because we have consciousness.
Or think we do.
Or have awareness of a Consciousness.
Or whatever.
The Paragon of animals, quoth the Bard
A couple centuries before Darwin showed
Every extant species is the paragon
Of its thread in the Tapestry.

Just chew on that a second.

These scars are deep and—
If the tree had an ego
It would probably think they were—
Ugly, but I find them Beautiful.
Because perfection is boring, after all.
Around the edges of this scar
The wood has rounded like a lip
Of a glass or a jar or an
Anthropomorphic Ent,
Curled into a sneer like Elvis.
Or Billy Idol, if you don’t know who E was.
Or, perhaps its lip is cleft
The maw aimed upward, pleading,
Like Daphne realizing her fate.

Close examination reveals
A sparse crop inside of
Over-ripe apples in various stages
Of decomposition.
There is no other trash
Than a few shards of branch,
No artificial scrap of human existence
Discarded by some park patron
Too lazy to walk fifteen feet
To the trash bin.
Gravity has dropped these.

If a tree had sentience I’d imagine
It shooting hoops with the apples
With an adrenaline rush of “Atta tree!”
With each successful dunk.
But if plants had sentience
All vegans would die
So I stalk it up to
The Uncertainty Principle
With all these random crab-apples dropping
Or knocked off by squirrels
Or birds or human children
Who use them as weapons
And once in a while
The confluence of physics and
Botany and meteorology manage to sink
Some fruit in the hollow.

What are the odds?

About Mark Matzeder

By education a filmmaker, by trade an electrician, by avocation a writer and sometime scholar. Occasionally I wring an essay out of some observation I have made or experience I've had and share them here. Sometimes I'll share short fiction. Sometimes a poem. But mostly it's just my spin on this strange trip.
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