Prompt Images

I’m not a special tree, not even particularly poplar, ha ha. I could use some sprucing up. You’re woke, I’m oak. Nobody pays attention to me. Why should they? I’m nothing but a trunk of branches with seasonal leaves, occupying a brick planter outside of a Red Robin restaurant. Birds don’t nest in me. They use me as a toilet. They are those kinds of birds. Jobless chickadees. Not fancy. They hop around the base of my trunk and, I admit, I look down on them.

I’m just an American Elm, doing my best to swish in the breeze and not topple into the roadway.

I like to read horror stories like The Giving Tree, about a homicidal man who spends his entire life slowly murdering a tree just like me.

I sent one of my leaves to Twenty-Tree and Me to find out where I came from, and it turns out I am the least remarkable tree in my family. When people think that they shall never see a poem lovely as a tree, they are not, I think, talking about me.

I’m related, it says, to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from the garden.

Yes, that garden. It’s not the tree’s fault. It had been planted in an untenable position. Anyway, I suppose we’re all related to that tree, or to Yggdrasil, with the roots that connect the Nine Realms of Asgard to the midtown tunnel.

Over time, it sh0ws, that seeds have spread from the cradle of civilization into Europe and then either across the Atlantic or the Pacific, to wind up as  me.

I’m related to the apple tree that dropped a piece of fruit on Isaac Newton’s head, leading to the development of  theory of gravity that Einstein later changed into a theory of the curvature of space-time when he realized that how hard the apple hits you depends on where you’re standing and how fast you’re moving and then quantum physicists came along and said we’re all standing everywhere and the apple is everywhere too. Pretty smart tree.

One of my ancestors, a North American cherry tree, was felled by a young George Washington.

That poor tree died so that political leaders would be forever honest. I’m also a cousin of the Buttonwood Tree where the first Wall Street traders met to form the basis of an economy that would treat everyone fairly and equitably.

Maybe I’m putting too much weight on my family of trees and we’re just witnesses to world events and not their cause. Maybe we can relax and be ourselves, content to watch what passes by. Maybe I can just be a tree. Frankly, I’m re-leaved.

Michael Maiello

Michael Maiello is a New York-based playwright, author and humorist. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, The New Yorker, and Weekly Humorist. He has two plays available through

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more