My neighbor has decided to poison the flame tree.
He is right, of course.
The tree is over 20 years old, huge, spreading,
and the termites have worn jagged roads clear to its top.
It’s clearly a danger
tilting toward our house—
some fickle wind
my neighbor says could blow it over. 

Every fañomnåkan, it sends out its bursts of orange blossoms;
it blooms and blooms and blooms relentlessly,
the flares it sends shooting out into space
more stunning than fireworks 
through the window

where my mother
riveted to a bed, doomed by her body to a colorless spot, 
gazes out, her head on a pillow—
might have seemed like forever to her who used to climb green mountain sides—
and watches that tree full of sparrows
flitting here and there
and the outlandish blazing petals
steadfastly singing against the blue sky.

My neighbor, true to his word,
injected a poisonous brew bought at Home Depot into the trunk of the tree,
the toxic river
traveling up up up following the termite trails to the heart 
of the fire.

He is right, of course.

The tree came back the following year,
its clusters unflinchingly parading their bursts of rebellious orange.
But the poison had done its work—
see, where there was a canopy of flames
there are now just a handful here and there,
one spray in particular desperately
reaching out 
like a fist full of beauty 
to the window

where she 
used to watch for its return.

Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Flores. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.