Campus Tree

It grew in the space between walkways
where students shuffled past year round
hurrying to classes, learning
to fit into their chosen professions—
but the tree didn’t fit in. Not anymore.
It leaned too far south, they said,
and its grasping fingers had claimed
too much of the campus sky.
On a warm day in spring before its leaves budded,
a worker drove slowly to the spot
in crowds that broke around the service car.
The man stepped out and spat on the ground,
scrutinizing the trunk and branches.
He moved around the tree, peering down the walkways,
to see how it measured up to the others in its row.
More campus workers came during classes
and threw red ropes up the leaning trunk.
They hacked and hauled off the abnormal branches,
checking their work against the row
until the tree earned a passing grade.


They walk around like animated corpses,
eyes glazed, feet moving them automatically onward, hungry,
toward individual destiny.
Eyes on their phones,
buds in their ears, connected, and
completely unconnected.
Each one of them knows they are the exception.
The only exception.
This they know better than anything,
This they know regardless and
in spite of what they learn or do in life.
This they have been taught above all else,
in classes, movies, and sacred text,
on billboards, on websites, and in the stars;
this alone they believe:
“You are special.”
“You are different.”
will change the world.”
And so they wander, starving corpses,
without purpose, feasting always
on the empty promise of immortality
dangling ever before them on a string
that hangs from their ears, meets at the chin,
and plugs in to their phone.