Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Yuppie

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Yuppie

By Fidelito Cortes

All day long he could see the tops of trees
of the rainforest he was trying to save.
Verdant even as they vanished far into
a haze of deeper green, they encircled him
and sang to him, striking long-forgotten chords.
And he felt that he had traveled back in time,
although the sky was as blue as it had been before,
the singing of birds as sweet and hypnotic.
Yes, everything remained the way it had been:
the forest still in danger and him foolhardy,
a weekend environmentalist strapped
to the highest branch of the tallest tree, waiting
for the yowl of the chainsaw, the bite of the ax.
Yet the stirring of the trees was music
and he was caught in its ancient sway.
After a song he clapped his hands, startling the birds.

Then it was dark, and the singing of birds
gave way to the chittering bats and the drumbeat
of lemurs landing on branches. The trees
still sang, but drowsily, and soon he imagined
the forest joining into a nocturnal concerto,
all just for him. Yet he hardly knew the names
of the trees and animals making music
for his sole pleasure. Shamed by the one-sidedness
of this relationship, he asked for their names
and was moved when they answered, one by one,
in voices as soft and deep as the forest
was old. He started drifting off to sleep.

The loggers came with harsh cries and bright lights,
and when they gunned their chainsaws, the night
shook with rasps and growls and stutters. They went
for his tree first, and he felt it shudder
as metal teeth tore through its ancient bark.
He shouted but no one heard him above the din,
and he tried vainly to free himself from the strap.
But before he knew it, the tree was falling
and he was falling. With him fell his brilliant
career and his pension fund, down came his
Toyota Prius and his iPod,
down too his laptop and his Blackberry,
his Pinot Noirs and his gym membership,
and as he fell he marveled at the lightness
of it all, his whole life’s weight dropping from him.
Soon he had lost so much weight he was floating,
as wispy as night air, and the tree had stopped falling
and was floating too, to the astonished cries
of the loggers below. There they were, tree and man,
hovering in air like lovers in a painting,
clinging to each other in fear and hope,
through all the world’s woes, on a brushstroke sky
splashed with stars. Chagall had saved them both.


Fidelito Cortes

Fidelito Cortes has two books of poetry, Waiting for the Exterminator and Everyday Things. He has won the Palanca Memorial Award a number of times. Born and raised in San Juan, Rizal, he now lives in Long Island, New York, with his wife, Nerissa Balce.

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