a lovely line

There were fireflies
in the neighbor's yard, 

so I held you up,

and I held on tight.
       - Jon McKiel


Botanical Peregrinations

I carried two leaves
across the country,

tucked into a book about primitive shelters,
or some other anachronism.

Two leaves
of tulip-poplar,
lobed like a cat’s face.

You laughed when I mentioned the similarity.

I wanted you to see why I would bother,
why I cared.
So I tipped the knife into the green, pliant branch.
The ash-gray bark split for you,
waxy cambium and the grassy scent of
slow, pulsing life.

Your fingers plied the sheath apart,
and you leaned,
and looked up.

By then, those cat-faced leaves
had turned the color of the sun,

and they lay all around you,
all around us.

The two leaves I carried
are brown,
pressed in glass,

and hanging on my wall.


There was that graying fence rail, dried and splintered and stretching on.
The long grass, nodding its head, dead and searching.

The shadows thrust and flung themselves into their meeting spaces,
to whisper and collude. 

You were there too. In greener times.
When we measured the shadows with the spans of our hands.

And there was the hem of your dress, lovely and worn.
Shaded beneath it, your knees together, calves pressed and pressing.

You were shrugged shoulders and too-red cheeks.
You sat upon that fence rail, gently to avoid the splinters,
gently because you only know gently.

Then you were gone.
A cactus wren, briefly alighting,

anchored to a foreign sky.

Under an Oak

You should have seen yourself
in the rough light and reddening stones
the way your eyes dropped and lifted

The way you couldn’t look at me
after you did

You should have seen yourself
dusty ankles crossed in the shadow of the bench
toes marking regular ellipses in the dirt

The way your breath and mine snagged on
every branch and burr
of the unformed space between us

I don’t know what you would have seen

Would you have seen the way the sky split
and purpled above you
Would you have seen what that meant to the shape of your face
To the light in your lifted eyes

I think about what you would have seen
If it would have resembled what I saw

If it would have sung in the same way

or at all