Sara Quinn Rivara

Tree of Heaven

The ailanthus tree, also known
as tree-of-heaven is an exotic,
invasive species.

The world has broken blazing: snow spun
sugar in the tamarack swamp, the dogs panting

from their walk, our garden spent
and cluttered with winter’s waste:

the slow winnowing away of the spirit,
barren winter field of the heart. Today, walking the dogs
my few moments of contentment: Atwater wellhead ice-bound,

cattail reeds glazed with sun. Face flush with walking,
my husband pointed at two giant swans
standing on the frozen fen behind the dry gold

of old reeds. They watched back, suspicious. A small wind
wove its way through his hair, mine. But he was impatient
to complete the task: a walk. We retraced our steps

down the long trail, heads down in the wind. Then back home,
ailanthus tapping its thin branches on the window, its thousand
seedlings covered in graying snow. Television

clicked back on, blinds shut, the world and all its space
I put my heart back in its gilded box. Outside,
field of winter rye shaking in cold wind,

wild swans and their whole lives in the fen.
Only a few months until spring, until
something inside of me will break or be broken for good:

headwaters edged with ice, swans,
fields brilliant as blades —
the stinking tree of heaven springing up unwanted, everywhere.