Around fourth grade, I considered my best friend
to be a tree on one of the sidewalks downtown, in front of Little Zagreb I think,
a couple blocks down from the music store.
I had just moved up a grade and warts were spreading
all over my hands. I couldn’t help it. I had what it took,
I thought, not necessarily to be cool
but to have a friend – I had it, really, in my heart
and in my mind. I tried standing in the kitchen in front of my mother
who held a strange metal appliance in her hand,
straight up to the warts, tried freezing them
off the flesh, and then burning, when that didn’t work.
I tried picking them away which made it
worse, I know, my fingers
and palms scabbed eternally over
with warts and blood, and it never worked unless you were brave enough
to dig far in under the skin, to pull it out at the root.
I got an ointment to apply twice a day
and to never peel off, even though it got really flaky
and there was nothing else for me to do with my hands.
I made friends with the tree downtown
not because I was sad but because it was covered with knots,
and I wanted to know what the other trees thought about that,
and I wanted to touch it, just in case nobody else
had touched it in a long time (as they feared understandably
that the knots were contagious).
Eventually we realized, as a human and a tree,
we didn’t suffer from quite the same problems.
They cut her down and propped up a young sapling in her place,
and they’ve tried cutting me down too, even after
the warts went away, but they haven’t managed
to get under my roots quite yet, ice or fire,
nails, clubs, spades, eyes, or mouths. It’s harder with the roots
of a human. I don’t think they know how to look that far.