Paul Dickey: "Dean's Tree Service"




Cuddling a cup of hot tea, a man’s wife

scoots her chair from the kitchen table,

watches through a sliding-glass door.

By nine o’clock, the cherry-picker

is high in the broad-leaf linden.

This man’s arms hold a chain saw,

snap old and decayed limbs,

one by one that once protected

the house through years of weather.


Upstairs, from the bedroom window,

her husband is surprised, had thought

a saw would need more horsepower.

His grandparents made this acreage

a home place— planted the shade,

planned soon to start a family. 

She admires the man’s arm strength,

how he knots rope around each branch

just so, drops them with no damage

to the ground or to neighbors’ lines,


reducing the risks of any situation—

a broken fence or a child getting hurt.

She laughs as Dean answers his cell

in the high branch.  She knows him,

and only she can know he is making

a dumb excuse about lunch to the girls

at the office. He flicks a cigarette

onto her yard.  She seems happy enough.

Tomorrow he’ll bring a grinder

to clean out the stump and roots.


Her husband pays him what he asks,

though somewhat below the going rate.

A gentleman, he tells Dean he’s done

a good job, one he himself could not do.



Paul Dickey's They Say This is How Death Came into the World was published by Mayapple Press in 2011. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, Mid-American Review, Free Lunch, and Crab Orchard Review, among other publications.  A poetry chapbook, What Wisconsin Took, was published by The Parallel Press in 2006.