mantra review

Summer 2018


the dogwood tree sheds bark by cracking an ache along

its side

but the skin remembers
          touch after the hand
pulls away, a burn of shade
glistening and glistening with birds
as lilies peel open, emitting a soft
mist into the breath of a southern wind,
so many necks twisting with day’s contortion,
many branches awakening with knowledge
of the snap
death of excess dew,
wet, wet the poppies bend back
the sweet earth’s scent, have you forgotten musk,
the waggling
tongues of caterpillars
          unwatered, the unplucked
apple tree heavy
with fruit, the cherry
blossom’s blood mixing
with the split clementine of youth,
or the orchid weeping her spine
into a wound,
          tear-stroking her own green
limbs in the absence
of another’s hands, or the grass
rising, clapping her pain into a verdant symphony
filled with brass drums and shrill
piccolos fingering the womb down into a brown blistered thing
which worms will wallow in
the sun’s tambourine shakes
the rings
of the dogwood’s internal years
into a blur
(you are breaking my heart)


do you remember when you were a child,
frolicking through fields amongst the great
sheep, and you were also a sheep, a whole
flock, and the sky, too, your skirt billowing
purity oh purity over the promiscuous
peonies when they sneaked looks from underneath,
they blushed and surrendered champagne, salmon,
rosewood, do you remember your mother
chasing after you with a large handkerchief
wanting to wash your face, clothes, legs,
and you holding up the lace that was
brimming your ankles, gathering it to your waist,
saying but mother am I not clean enough
so fast dashing through the white, no stain can
catch me, nothing can, not even the shepherd knows
why I am running,
and the green whistle
of a runaway train, your mother weeping,
waving her faded handkerchief as steam,
all the sheep running steam, and you a billowing
cloud that cannot pause to gather the mist from her
because you have become a wolf, your great
tail waving back goodbye

Emily Ellison is an MFA candidate at Texas State University with work in Literary Yard, After the Pause, Gordon Square Review, and Haiku Journal, among others. She lives in San Marcos, Texas with two cats and an abundance of plants.

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