A Tree in a Storm Drain

A Tree in A Storm Drain
By JD Miller

I felt compassion for a tree today
Not even a tree, just a plant
With four green leaves
Which had taken root at the bottom of a storm drain.
And I thought, it might have been a tree one day
If it hadn’t fallen right here,
Into a barred cage, four feet underneath the pavement,
Surrounded by trash and debris,
Its thin roots digging feebly into shallow soil.
It might have been a tree that would send out
Seeds of its own, and if it had been
Allowed to grow anywhere other than a storm drain,
If it was allowed to drink anything other than
Rain water, swirling from the gutter,
Its own future saplings might grow up in safety,
In a park, or a forest full of other healthy trees,
Sharing their shade and growing tall,
Who’ve never seen a cigarette butt
Or longed for a storm to quench August’s thirst.
As it is, I doubt these four leaves will be a tree.
I doubt that it will ever drop seeds of its own,
Which I’m sure is for the best,
Picturing all of those poor trees with nowhere to go,
And no room to grow, fighting over too little soil,
Too little air, too little water,
Wrestling for the little light until they strangle each other,
Assuming they take root at all.
I felt compassion–an urge to pry up the bars
And transplant those four green leaves to somewhere else,
To softer soil and sweeter air,
Somewhere they might grow and bloom,
Where kids could someday swing from its branches
And it could reach, uninhibited, for the passing clouds.
Living things shouldn’t have to live
In places that will sap their life.
And yet, they do. Life is everywhere,
Even in storm drains.
The tree doesn’t know that it is in a cage.
To it, the sky has always been barred,
And the water has always been dirty,
And there have always been walls on all sides,
And constantly giants walk by, their heads
Right up against the yellow sun.