On Fallen Trees


Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

- “Fall, leaves, fall” by Emily Brontë

11 P.M. My apartment, Baltimore.

There’s a tree outside my apartment window, and the leaves rustle in the wind as rain beats against the windowpane. The sound instantly takes me back in time. It sounds like school nights spent in my child bedroom, when I would lie awake listening to the rain. There was a tree right outside my bedroom window that stood tall against all the rainstorms. If I close my eyes and listen to rain against the window and the whispering of the leaves, I’m fourteen again, at home safe, still a child. Just for a moment.


The tree outside my childhood home no longer stands. It was cut down along with the other tree in our front yard, the cherry blossom tree with the pink buds that bloomed every spring. There was never any need to go see the cherry blossom trees in D.C. We had our own perfect cherry blossom tree right there in the yard, outside the kitchen window. I can still remember the way the tree felt, the way the rough bark scraped my hands when I climbed the tree. I loved climbing that tree, and I had it down to a science. First, you grab hold of the long, sturdy branch and use it to propel yourself onto the lower, thicker branch, which you’ll need to sit on. Then, you can hoist yourself up onto the branch directly above the first branch. Like I said, it’s a science—one that frankly, I didn’t even know I still remembered. But it’s beside the point. That tree is gone now. 


Now when I go home to visit, I think about how our front yard looks like a graveyard. The front yard looks barren, with only a raised mound of dirt where the cherry tree used to stand. My mother tried to decorate it and put a bird feeder on it to make it look less sad, but to me the bird feeder looks like a headstone. A headstone for the tree, for the pictures taken there and the memories created. For the flowers that no longer bloom.


Ever since my Grandmother died, everything reminds me of death. I cling to everything that reminds me of life. I think of things in my home that she touched, and imagine that they still hold some piece of her, echoes of her touch.

I close my eyes and picture her leaning against the cherry blossom tree in our front yard. When I open my eyes, the yard is empty.


My parents tell me that they are planting new trees in our front yard. Crape Myrtles. Three of them. I hope maybe the new trees will make the yardmake my whole familyfeel alive again.

Listening to those leaves, I go back in time. Just for a moment I am fourteen again. Just for a moment, just for a moment.




Poetry by Charlotte Smith
Photos by Sophie Allsop

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