First the cardinals came. I could hear the male on cold mornings, high in the lone elm on the corner.
Tweet ooot, tweet ooot, tweet ooot.
In the bared knuckled branches it hops a song, a crimson dot pinball in the crackled mosaic overcast sky. I watched as it swooped down onto the boulevard across the street and then the pink, tan lover trickled a dance by and they flew off.
Second, weeks later, came the robins’ early morning. Trying to suck worms out of the thawed dirt fading to green, it poked hungry. The robin sang a faster, skinny song. He sings all night, longing and desperately lonely.
Last night the robin sang and samaras began to hang. They hung a heavy chartreuse blanket, draping the tree in only life. All the other elms on the block were painted last fall and cut to numbered stumps. Canopies collapsing. This is the elm their sacrifice would save.
A vast propagation of cotyledons steadily grew on the tree like a shag carpet. The branches creaked with the weight, while the robin waited.
The dog nudged me with his wet nose and I shook out of sleep. I could hear the early morning. I tumbled my clothes on and grabbed a baggie and the leash. The bell of the dog followed. His enthusiasm waned when he saw the rain puddle on the sidewalk and he braced against the wet. I trudged him down the steps into the damp. My clothes clung to me and felt the first drizzles. The dog shook. We turned the corner and the droplets subsided, they had turned a curtain of seeds in the openest window of all. Floating to the earth, sticking to, covering our hair, forming a bright green dew halo around the tree, were the miniature seeds, protected by their green coats of life. Stacks covered the ground and still falling into the street, on the sidewalk, covering parked cars. The seeds covered the dog and he shook. I tried to catch some in my mouth and felt the hairy eyelashes tickle my throat. I smelled my last day of first grade.
These many seeds gripping the wet asphalt glowed in the dawn light. They stuck to splashing tires, to raindrops, onto blades of grass. All these elms’ seeds trying to find home, to replenish the loss, to grow.
The heavy cover of seeds after the rain brought the worms to the surface as the day warmed. The samaras continued to drift spinning down, catching rides in the wind. The rain bore sun and the grass grew and buds blossomed and tulips shot to the sky.
The ankle deep halo had covered our shins by dusk and had filled the gutter and aisles of the driveway. The wind and wet had loomed the green seeds into a weaving wave spanning the street. A freckled urban Monet homespun art. Folks on their evening walks laughed at the sight and picked up handfuls of the seeds and tossed them into the air like confetti.
I heard the robin call, silence, another call. Then I heard her too.
High in the elm came his sweetest and loudest song and she answered. They met in the piles of stacked samaras in the knotted trunk of the elm. They poked in the grass and bowed to the other and he picked up sticks to show her. Then he gave her a worm.
The samaras ceased and rested. The robin didn’t sing the night. I thought about the odds of any of these seeds germinating in the mowed industrial city and doubt crept into my being. Then I remembered all the young elms I see in the country or growing through cracked patios and I think of the robins’ last song.