Poem by Arisa White   •   Photo by David Chauvin

In the grip of dirt

They say an oak has a desire to be an oak
when housed in the grip of dirt
it dares itself to grow—I feel that seed in me.
Some ghosts balance along your curbs,
at the foot of your queen, kneel by
your bathtub—cold hands and loofah
rub touch raw until breath comes out in baby steps,
walks the thrashed and shameful rooms
with mirrors and scales that show you of no wood.

When the therapist asks, how I feel,
my statements toddle.
My emotional arithmetic is basic: I’m sad.
That admission brings buzzards close.

My empty hands petition for the angel
left in the snow when I was six, every shoelace snapped
in a rush; the fried chicken that drove my mother
into the next borough when our mouths were one;
the cat that refused to be leashed, but I dragged
her and her will remained unsuffocated.

I tire of coming across thirsty saplings.
Let this nest on whatever station when the knob
turns the heart: listen to the celloist’s
serenading symmetry, between her breast
the curtain parts in your dream tonight.

What is bandage for loss?
Stillness is long haul from sugar cube to anthill,
like each hair, antennae to the oak’s will to grow. 

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