These three poems by Ann Fisher remind age of its gnarled beauty, lure love into simple spaces, and acknowledge the coyote whose silence answers the call…
by: Ann Fisher
trunks and leaves
Tree bark starts smooth, sapling smooth. With age, it wrinkles, splits, and tears; the outer edges fold and ridge to make room for the inner years that circle outward. My skin, too, makes room like bark’s outer edges. Paper-thin on the backs of my hands like the mighty birch; face wrinkled, spotted and scarred like the Sycamore, scaly protection sloughing off to the forest floor. My hips carry the shimmering split-lines of time, scarred memory of my human movement outward, edges like colliding bark plates, the energy of life building not in concentric rings but spiraling toward some unknown, inevitable end. Still, my eyes tilt to the same stars that shower over the green canopy, me as tall as this forest allows. Roots less deep in the soil, toes failing the elongated thirst of the arbor but still, standing. Bark, like fingerprints, press themselves uniquely into each tree. One can name a tree simply by knowing it’s outer edges, touching a hand on the ways it defends itself to reach old age. Can I read my own skin into such knowing? Cracked bark heals a wound quicker. I have so many wounds, leaf-scars left behind on winter’s leafless branches. But each spring, my new leaves spring up from previously closed vacuoles. The mighty Beech discourages hangers-onners, the lichen and insects and little loves that threaten to suck sap dry. But only at great cost. The inner world of the Beech slows, almost halts, allowing outer skin to catch up. So little resistance is not a better way, me with my tendency to velcro tight to any evil around me. I swear, I’ve ballooned over the years, inside and out. Split-skinned and worn, giving my inner growth a heyday, no matter the cost. I wear my cracked and pattern splodges proudly. My own squared-off torn tectonic plates of skin, age-spotted and gouged like a forest of trees bathed in bark-like beauty.
Your new terrace holds me up above everything. Black metal scrolls frame the brown Boston bricked apartment building next door. Bumper to bumper cars bead themselves along the asphalt below, the corner gas station anchors itself with a tall red and blue sign. The booming voice from the trolley announces this place a destination and it’s true. Being with you, here, feels like an arrival though we are still the same mother and daughter after twenty-three years. You with your morning ritual buried in quilts and blankets while mine rises early to catch the dawn break pink into the rectangle overhead. The city wakes itself into being while you sleep. Whooshes and whirs, hums and clangs, the rhythmic clacka clack clack clacka clack of public transportation. Home is where the heart is, and on your veranda, short a chair and piled with boxes, the conductor calls me home. Our hugs, long and sure, our bodies pressed into one another, melding the distances between us. Viscous hurricane waves— covid restrictions, the pull of launching yourself from childhood too often like a riptide, the world’s fear and hate burning, rampant fires scorching every breasts and trunk and canopy of green leaves— all held back by this wrought iron scroll. This levy of love between us. Home then, is here. The pulse of the trolley, the wondrous beat of our conversations, this tide-pool of rooms where you will build your meaning.
Call to Morning
The coyotes call before dawn hits the porch. Not forlorn or eerie, but strong and mouthy, like tricksters gathering momentum. The lone call triggers the baying of the pack and I pull the quilt up, work to gather my own momentum though I do so quietly, my community not a thing I could sound into being, not in this patchwork of forest and field. The rise and fall of their howling chills me awake. I imagine the lone one, her mouth open, teeth glistening, sounding out to her tribe. “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!” Furry flanks tearing toward their own, circling up with necks stretched to the sky, bellowing their connection. Funny, I see a fire in the middle of their circle of mouths, a warmth in the center of their shoulder to shouldering. But I know that’s not how it is. They’ve got their slackers, too. The ones who can’t toe the line; the wayward, the obstinate. The voiceless, the lazy. Those who can’t get up from the circle of grass they’ve trampled down for the long night. Head on paws, eyes squeezed tight, unable — or unwilling— to answer. Those who wish the day ahead would gather itself far, far away, buried deep in a blanket of darkness.
Ann Fisher lives in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains. She is Fiction Editor for the Mud Season Review. Her work has appeared in Heartwood Literary Magazine, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and the South Shore Review, among others.
Header art is by the ridiculous talented artist, Luisa Azevedo.