I thought the Red Cedar
(Juniperus virginiana)
looked dead,
as many are
along the roadside,
due to the drought.
But a big one
in the farmhouse yard
had been green all winter.
Now it looked dried,
orange.
I walked up to it,
expecting to rub my fingers
over sharp, brittle leaves,
but as I got closer,
I reversed myself,
backing up.
The tree is laden
with pollen,
thicker than I have ever seen.
No wonder,
the sneezing,
itchy eyes.
That should have been
the first clue.

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As I look around
the neighborhood,
it is obvious: green Cedars,
females;
orange trees,
males.
I felt a bit proud:
that I had noticed the
massive amounts of pollen myself
and connected it with my allergy symptoms
from the very source—
even before someone confirmed
the cedar pollen count is extreme.
Somehow,
seeing it for myself—
on this tree I know;
it’s quite beautiful
up close; there is more orange pollen
than green leaves—
makes me more understanding,
empathetic.
Now I don’t think of the pollen
that causes my body discomfort
as a foreign object;
as something vague and menacing
“out there” to dislike,
as something abstract—
as I did when I learned about the pollen
count,
second, third-hand,
from the usual source:
the news.
This stuffy, burning nose,
these watery, itching eyes:
evidence of life in relationship
with a tree
under which Pheasants take refuge,
racoons climb,
birds find food;
on which snow flocks.

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