The Fear Tree

by Rose Lemberg

I’m trying to get to the root of my fear.

Fear is a tree with deep roots,

Fear is a tree with quivering branches.

Fear is a boundary tree cut back to the property line,

fear is a tree trimmed to make space for electric wires.

Fear persists, creating a sight hazard

that grew out of my sinews, nerve endings budding in the clouds,

unconquerable by tree trimming service and bigoted neighbors.

Fear and I came to this country to take root,

Fear and I came to this country to sprout blossom,

Fear was a sapling back then but it has been well-nourished

      every time I crossed the border every time I spoke 

                  every time I waited in line every time I thought I had assimilated           

Fear and I came to this country to drop fruit,

sustaining every manner of bird and twitchy squirrel.

The neighbors want the fear tree cut down to the ground,

want me to pay want me to          they do so much wanting at my expense     they want 

someone “normal” someone American 

     someone without an accent     someone with a flat dead lawn 

    someone with 24/7 of spare time and money, someone who isn’t seen, they want me 

to move, want me to never  have existed: I pour

water by the roots of the fear tree, my back to the shouts—there’s

a reason the fear tree grew this tall:

reason is I had nothing to eat

reason is I slept on floors, reason is I crossed four borders moved two hundred times 

reason is I shredded my face bloody 

waiting for my partner to cross the border     reason is I grew

my fear tree

taller than any fence, in defiance of hatred and wires:

      it is my survival, suspended

between the deep recesses of the sky,

blooming deep and shivering from the branches of my bones.


Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their fiction and poetry have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Uncanny, Apex, Strange Horizons, and many other venues. Rose’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Elgin, Rhysling, and other awards. You can find more of their work on their Patreon: