Lynn hoffman

The Tree on Tasker Street


cousin mary from second street

(the one with the grey-green eyes

the one who ties great cloths around her head

and feeds the starlings because they

make her think of black pearls)

cousin mary came by today -

with winter squash from ninth street

she’s newsy, cousin mary and she says

“guess what” no question mark

“the city cut down that old tree,

eleventh and tasker, you know the one.”

and from the stoop, i see some vacant,

tree-sized patch of sky

and momma mourns for

the shade at the bus stop.

cousin mary takes little annette who’s six

and when they don’t come right right back,

i go down to where the tree used to be

and cousin mary’s sitting on the stump

counting the rings, digging

little pits with a pen knife that she keeps

for attacks like this and i hear

“lookit sweetie, this is when your father was born

and this is when gannie came to this country.

look, look they just cut the tree and until it

dries out the time is right there. you can run

your hands along it to where the phillies won

and rizzo lost or anytime at all.”

and little annette pokes kidfingers at the stump

like she’s pressing buttons and getting years

and cousin mary says “hurry sweetie, hurry

it can be any time you want” and annette laughs

“now!” she says “now now now!”


Lynn Hoffman was born in Brooklyn and lives in Philadelphia. Among his published books are Radiation Days—a comedy about cancer and Short Course in Beer, a very serious but tasty book about ales and lagers.