Tall boughs thrown up make the sound of applause
in the distance. When rain bends trees, here comes
longing. A girl studies the plot of these
woods for proof of her feelings—a tangled,
shadowy boscage, the creekbed’s stalled mud.
The girl hides from those who don’t seek her out.
An impulse to build in all directions
starts with seasons of birds or seeds aloft
then rooting in lawns or unkempt gardens.
Time to sabotage intruding saplings
if what they foment is thicket, more dusk.
From the damp mulch, a sky appears cracked
by new branches pulled too far from the root,
more untold aspirations falling down.
. . .
Hackberry. Hawthorn. Hickory. Blackgum.
Trembling Aspen. Beech. Maple. Musclewood.
Crabapple. Dogwood. Pawpaw. Oak. Oak. Oak.
Our girl forgot to bring lunch. Her mother
entered the lunchroom with brown paper bag,
heels hitting hard, legs kicking open her
white rabbit fur, turquoise dress fluttering
in rayon. Loose chignon, tortoise-shell shades
finish the cut. All affect aside, this `
woman stunned the kids to whispers. Our girl
welled with admiration and gratitude.
The second grade class sang from the risers
We tried to put what we see in language
you would understand. In 1978, the world
resembled no romance with possibility.
Everyone deserved a weapon. Mother
secreted her lighter, notebook and knife.
She is not them. They lure with scarcity.
Her “character” suffers from scrutiny.
Politically awkward, ignored, she blends,
forgives exclusion. The day she matches
the profile, she loses introspection.
She is brown-skinned, yes, and her mother marched.
Estimate her penchant to play the fool
with fear, I give you two chances. I give you
the ball and the rope and a rhyme for your time.
What scars she showed, they don’t quite get, so she
is done with present-tense. The cost of your
reach will be indescribable, almost
pleasure. When she was a child, she did
not know her face would become everyone.
Wendy S. Walters is the author of Troy, Michigan (forthcoming from Futurepoem Books in 2013), Longer I Wait, More You Love Me (2009) and a chapbook, Birds of Los Angeles (2005), both published by Palm Press (Long Beach, CA). She was a 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Los Angeles Review, Bookforum, The Iowa Review, Coldfront, and Harper’s Magazine. She is Associate Professor of Poetry and Literature at Eugene Lang College of The New School and a co-founder of the First Person Plural Reading Series in Harlem, NY.