As seen in Aries: Journals of Art and Literature
Poems awarded the 2013 Royce Ray Poetry Award,
selected by Pulitzer Prize nominee, Vivian Shipley
Soft Core Birches
My boyfriend hid in his fort
maintaining radio silence. I strummed
on different frequencies and circled
the woods around him, then made an army
of woodland furries and gave them orders in song.
Pressing into the dirt, I splintered out two legs
like trees. They swelled right
below the knees and silked thin
like ribbons near my feet.
The furries stitched me a bird’s nest dress and pine
needle petticoat that I obsessively fluffed.
But his windows were still dark.
He doesn’t like you the way he should, the furries
explained to me. “No, it’s just that my antlers are bigger than his.”
The furries didn’t like it when he used
my clavicles like bicycles handlebars.
What’s he doing in there? the furries asked me.
I chewed on venison and replied, “Working
on merit badges. He always does the right thing.”
Swamping ponds murked thick with indigo
ink. Rain and hail
pinged off my tin roof, every drop.
Down in the water, bullfrogs. The weeping
willow, swam slowly in
the wind like a tired child’s
legs treading water.
I sat on the scalloped edge of my quilt, the stitches stiff
as metal, a girl with hair
that is black when wet and eyes
even darker with the lights off.
My mother’s old shirt tripped into my knees as I toed
to the window. I chewed the collar, felt for the window seat.
Ice balls sounded plush on the grass, the weeds.
I heard the great blue heron’s undercoat
saturate. Tomorrow’s climbing trees dampened
into corks. The rain would do the same to me, make me
smell more like magnolias and less like field flowers.
The rain soaked the roof until it folded in on itself
and then filled the house, lifting me
up like a tree frog squinting
silver pupils and trilling
my pulse into the night.
I was so tired of needing.
I let the darkness
of my showered hair drench my sleep shirt
until I was fully submerged.