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Tree Surgeons

It is afternoon and the tree still stands tall – though broken – in its resting place. Those great roots which we cannot see, beyond the garden wall, still cling tight to earth and shape the underworld, among the rot. The trunk is stuck - delimbed, disfigured, disgraced - as the surgeon crawls about him. He stands humiliated, waiting to be finished off. The top leaves, which in the morning caught first red light and replied with yellow, were not yet fallen by the saw that was to finish work by evening.

I had disregarded them when I walked in at eight and sat at my desk and pressed on and sighed. Those autumn leaves awaiting winter, colouring in my window; I had not seen them. Not at least until I heard the moan, hocking metal, sheering at something outside. I thought it was an early mower, scything the wet lawn for the last time of the year. Then I spotted the abseilor ascending the trunk, past my view, and into the canopy like a bizarre bird. Busy, his chainsaw took to the bark and wailed and sliced and branch after branch dropped with expert precision. Another man stood at the base gathering the fallen and processing the logs into sawdust with his truck’s mechanic blender. I watched a while and went back to my screen. I looked up from time to time and another patch of distant sky had been revealed, but the tree still stood. And part by part dismantled, bit by bit devoured, denuded, like cancer eats its host, muscles, limbs, organs.

Now it is afternoon, nearly time to turn off. The tree still stands like an unholy totem pole. Astride this branchless pillar, heroic against the new horizon, the surgeon, chainsaw dangling, visor up, leaning on his ropes, admires his work. A high-rise flat shines in the dusk, hiding all those lives, small in the distance. You could not see it this morning. Layers lost, the air now wide and deep, the tree that took two hundred years of sunlight from the seasons has been defeated. The surgeon pulls on his saw - the last parts from the top to do before dark - and contracts his way down chop by chop. 


With the poxed stump still partly visible in the window, I return my eyes to the screen.


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