spacerThe Gum Tree

Gayle Brandeis

This tree did not produce
chicle or gum arabic--
it was an oak, probably,
or a maple, some normal tree
on Main Street,
Evanston, Illinois,
just outside the White
Hen Pantry
where we bought Fun-
yuns and Now
and Laters after school.
People put gum
on the gum-tree trunk--
the whole surface
was studded with it,
wads of purple,
green, yellow, pink,
little wrinkles of Trident,
larger blobs of Bubble
Yum, some tongued smooth,
others still imprinted
with ridges of teeth.
I thought the tree
was beautiful,
a living mosaic, slightly
scented with mint and fake
watermelon sugar.
Each piece of gum
seemed like a kiss
to me, an open mouth,
almost unbearably intimate,
rubbery bits once warmed
by breath, slippery
with spit, the insides
of people's bodies
exposed there, the bark
pressed firm and patient
against them
like a tongue
ready to blow
the perfect bubble.

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