Of Felling

There used to be a tree, a giant red oak arching over the court- yard outside our apartment. In May, when the city came to take it, we all stood watching. A man hung in the branches, chainsaw knot- ted to his waist. Our dog was dying. We were thinking of having a baby. We rarely stood with our neighbors, but it was our tree, then it wasn’t. Felt our place in the universe. What is home, anyway. People are supposed to live under trees, like primates. We were afraid we couldn’t fit the baby things in our apartment. We heard something that looks healthy can be rotten inside. It’s natural, the midwife said, between the branches of my thighs. One in five. Five was the number of trees the city culled from our street that summer. We didn’t like the new light. The dog was sick, and we had to cover our eyes as he hobbled through the grass. The teeth of the chainsaw sank into the trunk, scattering clots of tissue on the ground below. Our dog coughed and sank into the carpet. I was ravenous and didn’t know why. We weren’t ready. For the rope to be lifted away, for it to look so much like a tree when it was dead and hovering in front of us. Like life, suspended. We never did move. That night I stood at the sink, eating a Brussels sprout plucked from the oven. Peeling back layers of the little cabbage, placing steaming green slivers between my teeth. This home: dog on his way out, human who wouldn’t quite make it in. I felt like a mammal. Longed to pick our food. Grow my family in the wild. No felled trees or empty air. Just palms cupping leaves. Small hearts still beating.

Stephanie Devine is the editor-in-chief of New South and a PhD student in creative writing at Georgia State. Her work has appeared in Louisiana Literature, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, The Austin Review, Joyland, and elsewhere.