Laura Madeline Wiseman
A Piece of Land to Lie Fallow
There is no view, festival, or orchard,
just solar lights, silk flowers, the names
of their dead full of dust, the remains
food for foragers, tilting masked eyes,
rictus swallowing our seeds, but to hear
any whisper of needles—twisted bundles
of evergreens collecting wind—murmurs
irregular and ambient is to be swept back
to before the bombings, their hill-homes
that we fairy-ringed, the meadow-edges
where our fledglings tolerate the ash,
rock, and fallout still: is to hear us calling:
bowing and rising, wildfire layering,
that pitching chant, but then is to smell
the resin and tar worked from our wood,
hear the knots ignite on their shafts—
how we sputtered and spat before
we burned, illuminating our overseers.
Dwelling Near Hills, Mounds, and Hillocks
What’s blooming around us is without tooth, but sweet in spring,
recognizable by three-flowered cymes, downy and bearing two,
and not by the orange fruit of autumn, eight-seeded, red-cheeked,
that trumpet the cold, grow sweet and ripe, amid scarlet leaves.
Along the trail on the north crown of town, we will become a date
recalling flavor, a fruit well eaten, a juicy berry, once named
(fruit of Zeus, date-plum, possomwood, simmon) globular berries
that still thrive on any roadside, field, or clearing, but here curve,
ripening the old city park with scent on what was once a rail line,
sight distance from the stink of plastic plant, assembly line,
factory neighborhood of homes where duplex kids reached
between our zigzag twigs, their parents blending our pulp
into cakes or puddings, or under our round-topped canopy cyclists,
runners, and dog walkers sampled our arboretum’s windfall. We fed
on their supping, soft paws, touch of claws, and lap of tongues.
Never a grove of our own, never needing the bletting bite of frost
to sweeten, our fruit will still remain attached into winter’s chill, glowing
orbs of light, a beckoning in a metropolis turned back into forest,
that undulate along the current of concrete that parallels fences
topped by razor wire, where trains once thrummed and moaned.
At another time, we might have been harvested, forced to ferment
into beer or brandy, steeped to make a bitter tea, or eaten raw.
But leaves strew the sidewalks now. Such common sweetness
nourishes just by looking. There could be houses, but now there’s this.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks, including the collaborative book of poetry and art, Leaves of Absence: An Illustrated Guide to Common Garden Affection (Red Dashboard, 2016) with artist Sally Deskins. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Flyway, Kudzu House, Canary, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.