In The Town I Grew Up In There Is A Giant Oak Tree

Blake Richard Verdoorn
Blake Richard Verdoorn

It’s a symbol of our town, one that is plastered all over brochures and pamphlets.
Not sure what it’s supposed to represent.
Perhaps strength, sturdiness,
whatever else emblems mean to the people
who claim them wholeheartedly.

It’s a rather unremarkable tree. Big, sure.
Thick fingered branches going every direction.
The Oak Tree, we call it.
No idea if that’s what kind of tree it actually is.
The details have a way of disappearing over time,
getting more jumbled the longer I’ve been away.

The tree sits in the middle of an intersection,
roads and businesses lining its sides.
During the holidays, it is adorned with icicle lights
and people gather around to watch it come alive.
The tree lighting, it’s called.
A bit on the nose for my liking.
A showing of pride and spirit,
and money, most likely.

But there it is, year after year.
The Oak Tree, something you can always come back to.

My hometown is a pretty one.
Trendy shops, chic eateries with things that are vegan and gluten free.
The only place teenagers find themselves loitering is a frozen yogurt parlor.
Safe, pristine. Almost out of a catalogue.
The downtown has a few cobblestones,
or at least did when I was growing up.
I’ve heard the historic hotel was torn down.
It has been replaced with a brewery and Free People.

My hometown is not my home anymore.
The house I grew up in belongs to two ER nurses.
They have a dog, I think.

The ramp from the driveway to the front door has been torn down.
We built it for wheelchair access during my father’s chemotherapy.
I didn’t expect it to still be there,
but there’s a punch in knowing what was once
can cease to exist.

In the cement, there are initials. AE, mine.
My mother’s. My father’s, too.
In scratchy lettering, “A Love Supreme.”
An album by John Coltrane and something my father
had engraved in his wedding ring.

A love supreme.

Trees do not live forever.
And I remember this.
The Oak Tree and my father.

Every year, my hometown will gather around a dying tree
and celebrate another year.

And now I wonder if his urn
is made of oak too.TC mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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