Acting Like a Tree
by Jonathan Aaron
When I got to the party and saw everybody
walking around in Christmas costumes,
I remembered I was supposed to be wearing one, too.
Bending slightly, I held out my hands
and waved them a little, wiggling my fingers.
I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips, making
a tree face, and started slowly hopping on one foot,
then the other, the way I imagine trees do
in the forest when they’re not being watched.
Maybe people would take me for a hemlock,
or a tamarack. A little girl disguised as an elf
looked at me skeptically. Oh, come on!
her expression said. You call that acting like a tree?
Behind her I could see a guy in a reindeer suit
sitting down at the piano. As he hit the opening
chords of “Joy to the World” I closed my eyes
and tried again. This time I could feel the wind
struggling to lift my boughs, which were heavy
with snow. I was clinging to a mountain crag
and could see over the tops of other trees a few late-
afternoon clouds and the thin red ribbon of a river.
I smelled more snow in the air. A gust or two whispered
around my neck and face, but by now
all I could hear was the meditative creaking
of this neighbor or that—and a moment later, farther off,
the faint but eager call of a wolf.
Appears in the New Yorker, December 15, 2008