Evening Storm, Ballston

All last night the sirens shrieked –
fire trucks skittered like waterbugs,
their plastic eyelids conning streets
gorged and rivered by the storm.
Daylight reveals buds, limbs, entire
trees shattered where they stand; already
chainsaws roll their metallic r’s.
In my neighbor’s yard, a fresh-cut stump,
the raw wood cool, wet, smooth to the touch.
Twenty-six rings: twenty-six years
of xylem and phloem ferrying food
and water for the care and feeding
of this one tree. It might have stood
for years to come, shading this house,
shading the houses that follow
this one, all the houses and the tree
itself pretending that the shading
of houses is the purpose set out
for a tree. Surely there’s some purpose
for everything; surely what we
do here has meaning. Why else would we
have crept last night from our hiding places
to flit along streets littered with
downed trees and power lines, strange
nocturnal insects marking the darkened
blocks with the scent of our headlights?