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Dismay greets end of U.S. effort to curb spread of tree-killing beetle, January 2021...

Dismay, that’s a narrowing of tired eyes, lips pressed tight,

Like an envelope sealed with spit, if you remember those;

Greeting is the exchange when you have met again

After time apart, masked, your hand held out to mine,

My immediate assessment of your grasp, the breath

Of your palm against mine, as quick as an accent,

As soda pop. Soda. Pop. Coke. If I say soda and you

Say pop, one of us will probably infect the other.

They’ve given up on ash trees. They turn gold in the fall,

The color we’ve been promised cannot stay and they weren’t lying,

But they never meant a beetle was the end, its eyes nacred,

Opaque as astronauts’ helmets drawn down against the sun.

The beetle bores its way through and we understand

The impossibility of surviving when something’s gone all the way

Through, leaving nothing inside of you; the impossibility of surviving

When a sameness has taken over, however big the lie. Wasps

Are being deployed to overtake beetles, because we want those ashes

And paying for the removal of dead trees in our cities,

For the little garden that is supposed to remind you of everything

From Eden on, what would that even cost? God knows, it’s easier

Not to tally the bill. To leave a twenty on the table like a sapless leaf

And tell yourself what’s leftover is a decent tip.


Daisy Bassen is a poet and child psychiatrist practicing in community mental health who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Smartish Pace, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and [PANK], among other journals. Born and raised in New York, she lives in Rhode Island with her family.


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