Illustration: birdbath photo digitally manipulated to resemble blood-red tree trunk with spooky shadows

something haunts the new development

far from my city they want to cut down a mangrove forest to build an aeropolis. imagine the haunting: construction workers hear the rush of wind through leaves as they pour cement. they are contractual, paid by the day, so they lay foundations despite the cold spots the size of tree trunks. when they go home, their wives will smell sweat and hard work and underneath it all, the sweet tang of sap. at night, pedestrians walk the new streets and trip over roots that don’t exist. they wander until the streetlights dim, and when they look up the stars are obscured by branches. they will not wander back out. on the anniversary of the day the last tree was felled, a pilot will look out of his airplane and see the runway disappear under an apparition of green.

what is a ghost? potential life left over, a dead thing that clings, a thing the earth remembers. what is a tree? a thing that could have lived for hundreds of years, whose roots grip long after it has fallen, whose absence leaves a vacancy in the ground. could you exorcise a tree from the land?

Michelle Cadiz is a poet and biologist. She was born, raised, and currently lives in the Philippines.

Illustration by C.B. Auder.

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