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Positive Root Pressure photo

My mother calls. The trees are crying, she says. I think I’ve misunderstood her. The trees are... what? And she explains: my father overcame his cancer just long enough to take up an axe in the middle of the night, slash branches off the river birches like some kind of brown midnight slasher. Now, the places he pruned are dripping water. Not like a river— not a sustained sorrow. More like a leaky faucet. A general melancholy. My mother’s right. River birches can cry; it’s a phenomenon known as positive root pressure. But I don’t tell her. I want to live in a world where trees mourn for their lost branches. At the root of my parents is care disguised as tough love. At the root of me, frustration. Loneliness. As a child reminiscing my birthplace, I swore to my white friends that leaves can lactate. I know because I drank pearled milk from waxy green surfaces— I remember it all. My mother interjected. Must’ve been a dream, she told them, like she was in on the joke. When I watched her laugh, my knuckles were white around the stair railing. I’m at my whitest when I refuse to let something go.