by Amie Whittemore
—for My Great-Grandmother, Kathryn
When she arrives, quiet as a thimble,
I want to throw a chair at her—instead I weep.
Kathryn scribbles out a family tree, but she
might as well be a squid, this ghost unbraiding
my hair, rubbing my shoulders, her voice
rakes all the leaves. Harvests me. That boy.
I try to show her. How it was like he
threw a teacup on the floor and I ate
every piece. How it was like long grass forever.
She makes my womb a swallow’s nest. I break
it in half. She replaces my feet with eagle talons.
I cut them off. She turns my heart into a bucket—
this one I’ll take. But I empty it out.
Water sloshes around us and we are both
ghosts. My bedroom washes away. Then
the house. Outside the fireflies gather us
in their tiny baskets of light and carry us
first to the trees, then into their mouths.
The Earth Is a Solar-Powered Jukebox
by Emari DiGiorgio
In the late afternoon of siesta,
I hear the farmers’ horses up the hill,
the suck and pull of wet earth on hooves.
A fog of flies hovers by eyes and along
thin spines; ears twitch and tails flick
like small brooms sweeping the air.
A mile away, the Atlantic pounds the coast,
cashmere waves thump the shoreline
and offshore winds bend scrubby trees
toward the surf. Their leaves flutter
like tiny leather castanets filling the air
with a song I’ve heard a million times before.
I complained to my friend this morning
about the music the news uses to cut
between segments, to dramatize the wait
for the jury’s response in the murder case.
Imagine the soundscape that night. How fear
distorts (or sharpens) the senses: loose change
or a dragging chain, the heavy footfall
of girls jumping rope, ice or glass breaking
by the stairs. How many mornings have I woken
doubled over with longing, laundry snapping
on the line outside my window?
Once, just after sunrise, I heard a woman’s voice
rise up to meet the wind’s tune in high grass.
I threw open the dormers and stuck my head out.
No houses nearby, no women walking
the mountain pass or through the fields below.
I imagine short hair framing
a plain face, dark brown eyes, a long
corridor in which I enter, walk, the night sky
in the Himalayas, an empty truck stop,
the split ribs of a deer in a ravine.
In the distance, the clatter of wheels
on tracks, a conductor pulls the whistle,
putting his own signature on the air.
Like a huge lasso, the train gathers
the whole landscape and brings it back
to me so that I know exactly where I am.
by Kathleen O’Toole
(1) Towpath, Washington D.C.
Above a narrow berth on the far bank
of Rock Creek, winters’ bouts of storm
have unsheathed a maple’s spindly roots.
Stripped of earth, bleached of hue
and mossy cover, it angles out
over an unstable jut of what was once
its ground and sustenance. Gone the web—
cellulose and lignin, sap and circulation
that breathed: tree, truth, truce.
(2) Sierra, near Truckee, CA
Angr, from the Norse—grief, loss. A slow
erosion, like the raging creek, rerouted
by earthmovers and fill, condominiums
and the scream of macadam, where once
Washoe women gathered bulbs, their infants
resting on manzanita shrub. Water slicing through
granite granular — canyon.
(3) Appalachian Trail, VA
Observe the slow burn: a prone
Virginia pine decomposes for all to see.
A beetle army has ravaged here. Hieroglyphic
trace of their tunneling, grievous fungal trail.
White fir saplings hug old-growth pine—
implicit intimacy—again and again
this message: What’s next? (his last words) . . .
a different forest.