There’s a black walnut tree beside the driveway that my brothers and I tried to kill one spring evening when we were teenagers and it was just a seedling. Now it drops fat green planetary objects from 50 or even 70 feet up, another one landing on the old cracked tarmac every so often with a heavy thunk, like a worn-out clock that has forgotten how to toll. But the tree’s in the prime of youth; it is I, the one-time would-be assassin, who has turned decrepit. I have a fan in a little cage that I turn on my face in the heat of the summer, and for most of the other three seasons, my bony knees remain cold no matter how many layers I wrap them in. The falling walnuts remind me not of harvest-time and blessings as they should, but of all the projects I’ve abandoned, including love, reproduction, a career, the whole matter of being a useful citizen.

It should be noted that we have plenty of squirrels, so sometimes the walnuts don’t fall on their own; they are pushed. Maybe the squirrels are simply clumsy, and drop the nuts by accident. But I’ve watched them do it, and I have to say I think they relish the sound of a walnut connecting with its unmissable target the earth, like bored kids with a frisbee aiming for the terminal bud of a tree seedling at the edge of the yard, and shouting with triumph when a lucky throw shaves it bald.


  1. Plock says the walnut
    Dislodged from its stem
    By a mischievous squirrel.
    Its fate, to germinate–
    or be devoured–
    or inspire melancholia.
    Or still yet: become
    for words
    that spill into
    either an ether
    or a page that will be read
    in centuries.


    1. Thanks for the poem, Pica. Copy it onto parchment with black walnut ink, snap a picture, and I’ll be happy to feature it at VN! (Which will, of course, not guarantee its immortality nearly as well as the written page, parchment or otherwise.)


    1. If trees could laugh, I don’t think we’d be able to walk in the woods for the din.


  2. I’m trying to think of a definition of the set of “useful citizens” that doesn’t include “Dave Bonta,” and failing.


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