Lynne Bronstein has supported herself as a journalist while contributing to the literary community with four books, poems and short stories in numerous magazines, readings, and organizing poetry events. In recent times she has been nominated for awards such as the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Awards and her short story “Why Me?” won a prize in the PoeticDiversity Short Fiction Contest. Her poetry has appeared in Lummox, Corners of the Mouth, A Poet is a Poet No Matter How Tall, PoeticDiversity, Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts, among others.
The Jewel Tree
By Lynne Bronstein
Once upon a time there was a Jewel Tree that grew in the garden of a princess. It had grown there for so long that no one remembered how it had come to be.
The Jewel Tree’s trunk was made of glowing red-gold copper. Its branches were silver and gold. The leaves were emeralds and green and yellow jade. The flowers that sprung up on the tree at various seasons were deep blue sapphires, vivid red rubies and deeper red garnets, purple amethysts, yellow and orange topaz, pinkish tourmalines, clusters of colorful carnelians and jasper stones, peridots and lapis lazuli, delicate opals and pearls. The combined dazzle of all these gems and stones was so strong that sometimes a person could not look directly at the Jewel Tree, so strong was its light.
The Princess loved her Jewel Tree and she often sat beneath it, basking in its light. She never thought to pluck any of the jewels to trim her hair or to hang upon her neck or to garnish her fingers. “I don’t need to wear the jewels,” she explained to her friends. “I can see them any time I want to.”
Her friends, however, became covetous of the Jewels. “You ought to let us have them” they told her. “If you don’t want them there are others who do.”
The Princess could not deny them this wish, so her friends gathered the jewels from the tree. They not only stuffed their pockets and baskets with rubies and emeralds and sapphires and other gems but they also stripped the tree of its silver and gold branches and the trunk of its wonderful copper bark. All that was left was a blackish root, a dull black stick that could have been an ordinary lead pipe.
Now no one wooed the Princess as she no longer possessed the dowry of the Jewel Tree. Her parents died and in an insurrection, the kingdom was overthrown. The Princess had to wander. She uprooted the black stick that had been the Jewel Tree and took it with her, for she reasoned that if this was all that was left of the tree, it might grow and thrive somewhere else and she would be rich again.
She obtained work at the house of a rich family who had retained their money and status. She had to be the kitchen maid. Her life, which had once been a life of luxury, now consisted of washing dirty dishes, dumping nasty waste matter, and scrubbing filthy floors. She planted her black stick in a patch of the back yard that nobody bothered to water. Nobody objected to her little “garden project” but the other servants laughed at her for planting what appeared to be a piece of lead pipe.
She watered her plant but it did not grow. She wondered if water was what it needed. After all, it was a Jewel Tree. She snuck into the library of her employers’ house to peer into books and find out what one did to care for a Jewel Tree.
One day she sat next to the “tree,” thinking of how her life had gone downhill. She cried and her tears fell on the blackened stick. Suddenly, it turned to a dazzling reddish-gold, shiny and reflective. It was the copper bark of the Jewel Tree!
Now she knew what to do. She came frequently to the Tree and cried over it. It was not hard to cry. The Tree grew taller; it sprouted silver and gold branches, and it put forth the emerald leaves and ruby flowers she remembered from her childhood.
But there were only a few jewels and not a wide variety of them. How could she make the tree grow more jewels and thrive?
There was an ugly riot in the city. A tyrant was making the people very unhappy. As people fought in the streets, a man ran into the back garden of the house where the Princess worked. He fell under her Jewel Tree and his blood soaked the roots of the tree. The Jewels sprang out of the tree in a riot of color.
Diamonds like tears, garnets like blood, sapphires like the night sky, turquoise like the day sky, topaz like the sun, jade like the grass.
The Princess understood. The Jewel Tree grew out of the pain of the human species. It grew from the misery of life. It dazzled the eye and it led the heart in the wrong direction and its flowers, its jewels, were stolen by the greedy and so its beauty was not true.
She asked her heart what she could do for the poor tree.
There was a young man who carried wood for the family’s heating supply. The Princess realized that he had long loved her. She married the woodcutter and on their wedding night they made love under the Jewel Tree.
And the next day they discovered that the tree’s trunk had turned to ordinary tree bark and its branches to regular wood. Its leaves were ordinary green leaves and its flowers were small white blossoms with a delicious odor.
And the Jewels had turned to apples, oranges, plums, lemons, limes, and berries of many colors. They would have all the fruit they could ever eat.
They shared their fruit with the family they worked for and the family gratefully gave them a cottage of their own and more land on which to grow more fruit trees. They grew the new trees from the branches of the Jewel Tree and shared their fruit with the others who lived nearby.
One day the Princess sat beneath the tree and the fruit fell all around her and she gathered the fruit and placed berries in her hair and around her neck. She laughed and said “I am wearing my jewels after all!”
“No, “said her loving husband. “You don’t need to wear a jewel. You have always been the jewel.”
And that is the story of the Jewel Tree.