Archives for posts with tag: trees

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Love Birds
by Jaya Avendel

Under the plum trees I stand
In the shivering light
The scent massages moisture into my skin.
One tree reaches toward the other
Blooms white, blooms pink
The color of my lipstick
Nudge of the wind and the branches kiss.

Under the plum trees I sit

Hands to the earth
I hold a marble and
Call it a pearl. Turning it
Slowly in the sun I watch the flat facets
Glitter and reflect my eyes back into me
Cutting.

Under the plum trees I linger
Six years of courting and
I am still waiting
Still waiting for your nuptial flowers to
Bear fruit.

If I do not look away
Do not blink, do not dare to dream
I will taste you on my salted tongue yet.

PAINTING: Pale Plum Tree by Okumura Togyu.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The peach and plum trees on my backyard hill are currently in bloom. They bloom brilliantly but have never given more than a handful of fruits over the years. Though I have never enjoyed the famously beloved streets of cherry tree blossoms unfolding in person, this year it has come unexpectedly to me in a mountainous form. As I taste spring, I honor it as I can in words to share what is more than experience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jaya Avendel, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, is passionate about life where it intersects with writing. Her writing is published at Free Verse Revolution, Lamplit Underground, and Emotional Alchemy Magazine, and most recently in Heart Beats: An Anthology of Poetry. She writes creatively at ninchronicles.com.

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How to Savour a Favourite Memory
by Graham Wood

Mandarins bring my grandmother back every time,
standing with her by the old house in winter sunlight
sharing the first fruit I can remember. Four years old,
I’d wrestled it moments before from the huge tree
in the chook yard as she held me up towards it,
one of many plump tangerine disks
bobbing overhead against a sea of green.

She rolled the peel off deftly with her fingers, turning it on the point
of one thumb into large orange scoops of rind, stripping each pod
free of its pulpy strings. Then it was there! A burst of sweetness
on my tongue, elemental, never before anything like this.

Half a century dead my grandmother now,
inhabiting the long sweet breath of memory.
In spite of the decades that have vanished,
every time I peel and savour this favoured fruit
my grandmother is with me, talking softly
and sharing the same mandarin.

© Graham Wood.

ART: Citrus, Wren (Woodblock print, 1890) by Imao Keinen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem that attempts to capture the essence of a recurring, happy memory of my grandmother, who introduced me to the fruit mandarins (full name “mandarin orange”) when I was a young child. While at least one alternative spelling (“mandarine”) is possible, I’ve always spelt the word without the final “e” but pronounced it “man-da-reen,” as many Australians do.  Undoubtedly, my pronunciation came that day from my grandmother too. A “chook” in Australian colloquial lingo is a domestic chicken or fowl, hence “chook yard.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graham Wood lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and has worked in a variety of occupations. These include secondary school teacher, film classifier, and public servant, the latter mainly in the field of higher education policy and planning. His poems have been published in a range of Australian and international journals and anthologies. He is a member of the North Shore Poetry Project in Sydney.

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Learning How to Make Meyer Lemon Muffins
by Catherine Gonick

“Have some sunshine!” read the note inside
the box. There was none outside, in icy New York,
but before me were twenty small suns, Meyer lemons
that my friend had picked herself, in her Santa Rosa yard.
Like everyone who’s lived in California, I knew
that Meyers were the best. A cross between
a lemon and a tangerine, colored deep yellow
inside and out, exuding a spicy scent,
they were sweet enough to eat out of hand.
I ate one. The snow on my balcony whispered,
muffins are next. Was this even possible? I rarely baked,
had never even attempted bread, but now
could think of nothing else. I found two muffin tins
bought decades ago, and they shouted, Meyer lemon
muffins or bust. The recipe asked me to blend
a whole lemon till finely ground. Boil it first,
advised my friend. Then when it’s soft, let it cool,
cut it in pieces, remove the seeds. In the blender
I use for smoothies, the limp pieces of lemon lay
in the bottom, well beneath the reach of the blade.
I learned to pulse. Next came the juice of two lemons,
walnut pieces, an egg, and a half cup of butter,
which I figured was a stick. I only had a one-pound
block, so guessed at the amount. I’d had to go out
for the walnuts, a can of PAM cooking spray, flour
(mixed AP and whole wheat), baking powder, sugar
and baking soda, but had salt. I didn’t remember
that sifting could take so long and gave up. That was OK,
I learned later. Two friends said they never sift flour.
I stirred the wet into the dry, filled my tins and popped
them into a 400 oven. Checked after 15 minutes.
Inserted fork. Not yet. It took half an hour for my muffins to cook
and they didn’t rise. Or not much. But they tasted
like a tree in California, each fleck of rind a ray of sun
in my mouth. I gave one batch away, got raves.
The next time I try, I’m adding more baking powder.
A perfect lemon deserves a more perfect cook.

ART: Lemon, No. 96 (Woodblock print, 1967) by Funasaka Yoshisuke.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing this poem made me realize the extent to which I was learning how to make these muffins as I went along. And, how often I find myself in a similar situation, with most recipes, all things digital or mechanical, as well as relationships with animals and humans, and all attempts to write. I count myself lucky when instructions are provided, but most often they’re not, and otherwise are just the beginning of learning how to do something. They’re also difficult to write, as I learned when trying to write some for local hikes. My foray into muffin-making showed yet again how poorly I was equipped for a challenge, yet how willing to take it on. As a member of a technological species, but one who needs to acquire many more skills, I rely on curiosity, passion and appetite as my most helpful tools.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Gonick has published poetry in journals, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Halfway Down the Stairs, Notre Dame Review, Lightwood, Forge, Sukoon, and PoetsArtists, and in anthologies, including in plein air, Grabbed, and Dead of Winter. She contributes often to Kai Coggin’s Wednesday Night Poetry Series’ open mic and works in a company that seeks to slow the rate of global warming through climate-restoration projects. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Stay Grounded in Times of Flux
by Cristina M. R. Norcross

Do not cling to clouds,
but rather notice the billowing outlines.
Notice the shades of opal-like white
morphing into hues of heather gray
or charcoal, misty smoke.
See the blue behind the sky’s pillows
and know that this promise exists for you, too.

When the snow melts to rivulets
on the sidewalk,
and the earth thaws
to a softening green bed,
be barefoot in the yard,
let roots reach beneath your feet
to the very center of soil.
Let the trees know you are listening.

Walk in the sun as much as you can,
so that your hair is light-soaked
and your cheeks are kissed
by rays of canary yellow.
Just the movement of following
the sun’s progress
connects you to every other living thing
seeking oxygen,
a community of breath.

Green yourself like a leaf,
drinking in droplets of water,
slowing yourself down
to the minute pace of growth.
Your stillness becomes
part of the landscape,
so that even the wind thinks that
you are tied to the earth
by invisible strings,
inextricably connected
by a force greater than human ambition.
You have left that nonsense behind
in favor of branches and birdsong.
When a storm comes,
you are grounded.

PAINTING: Swamp maple (4:30) by Alex Katz (1968).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the pandemic, going for walks became part of my daily practice. While our local YMCA was closed, and even after it reopened, going for walks in nature became my preferred form of exercise to feel grounded in mind, body, and spirit. I read about a grounding exercise where you name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste (like what you had for breakfast). I modified this grounding exercise by being very aware of my surroundings on my walks. It made me feel so much more connected to the present moment to notice the varying shapes of the leaves on the side of the road, or the different sounds of the birds, or the vibrant colors of my neighbors’ flowers. In the winter, noticing and taking a photo of the details of snowflakes was not only grounding, but it distracted me from the minus-six temperatures we were having one week. The end result of all of this grounding and bundling up to take daily walks, rain or shine, was that I was able to return to my house feeling refreshed and ready for whatever came next, even if it was just doing a curbside pick-up of groceries. Often, my daily walks inspire and infuse my writing that day. You could say that my grounding walks have become yoga stretches and warm-ups for poetry!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin and is the author of eight poetry collections. She is the founding editor of Blue Heron Review.  Her latest book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Her forthcoming chapbook, The Sound of a Collective Pulse, will be published by Kelsay Books (Fall 2021). Cristina’s work has been published in Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Poetry Hall, Right Hand Pointing, Verse-Virtual, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her writing also appears in numerous print anthologies. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic readings. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day.  Visit her at cristinanorcross.com.

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How to Eat an Avocado
by Michael Minassian

Cover yourself in green—
nestle it in your hand,
squeeze until it yields
to gentle pressure;
slice in half,
then scoop out the pit
as if you were
removing a broken heart.

When you taste the flesh,
let it linger on your tongue,
flowering like a grove
of epiphanies—
earth, rain and sun,
hunger and thirst,
like the first touch of lips
in a voluptuous embrace.

IMAGE: Avocado (Persea) (1916) by Amada Almira Newton. Original from U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel, rawpixel.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Avocados have long been considered symbols of love and fertility. Used by Aztecs as an aphrodisiac, the fruit takes its name from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which means “testicle.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: When we lived in Florida we had a huge avocado tree in the backyard. I took the photo then (probably around 2014). The tree was fairly indestructible. When we bought that house there were seven papaya trees…all fell victim to hurricanes over a period of about 10 years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Minassian’s poems and short stories have appeared recently in such journals Live Encounters, Lotus Eater, and Chiron Review. He is also a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online poetry journal. His chapbooks include poetry: The Arboriculturist and photography: Around the Bend.  His poetry collections, Time is Not a River  and Morning Calm are available on Amazon. His poetry manuscript A Matter of Timing won the 2020 Poetry Society of Texas’ Manuscript Contest (publication: Summer 2021). Visit him at michaelminassian.com.

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How to Be Precious Like Nothing
          Like falling in love, you’ll just know.
          “How to Become a Werewolf” by Alarie Tennille
by Sheikha A.

Armed with an axe, they look like men
of authority; yellow coats branding

them horticulturists. Their swing
a proficient balance between casual

and careless; the blade blunt
and untamed, handle weathered

under mileage. The axe is a feature
of nothing living – no chromosome,

no breathable structure, yet a thing
of considerable damage, imminent

rigidity, unrotating agility –
Rotation. Like earth in pirouette,

the swirl of a heart in limbo,
scribbles of sound waves,

like the grey slab of the axe,
like polished theatre flooring.

The heart of the tree in cause
and effect from a clumsy blow

of the wind that is not its balm,
of its body that must fall. Pivot

on the rail of delirium and delivery,
the way those men can’t bring it down

as the tree resists like a contortionist,
like a flying acrobat against gravity.

Air is invisible – matter is a thing
subsided and contained. Nothing

is an artful state of being,
free-flowing yet regulated.

You are precious like a thing
with matter of no significance.

The tree hasn’t surrendered to the men.
Its nothingness is an axe-scraped bark

and leaves that fell like dead rain.
To know you can exist like nothing,

how will you know you are precious?
“Like falling in love, you’ll just know.”

IMAGE: Tree of Life by Josignacio (XX cent.).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have been in a state of “nothing” since I believed poetry had left me, or rather my muse, for probably a more vibrant or prettier thing on greener pastures elsewhere, and I have been utterly destitute for words, desolate even, until this line “Like falling in love, you’ll just know” in Alarie Tennille’s poem “How to Become a Werewolf” happened to me. Outside my building complex is a road that has weathered and suffered innumerable breakdowns as a result of mysterious excavating plans searching for a root cause here causing trouble elsewhere. Each time they’d break it, they’d slap some fresh tar on it after digging, probing and finding absolutely nothing, in manner of renewing it like nothing ever happened to it. This time around, curiously, they’ve been restructuring it by adding beautifying features such as lamp posts and flower baskets hanging off of their rails, growing dwarf date palms circled by orange blooms, painting beautiful images on the opposite road’s complex walls, and much more. In the process of it, they’ve torn down half-dead trees and a group of horticulturists come by everyday to enrich the soil with manure for fresh seed sprouting. They work on the stubborn remnants of torn down trees that refuse to let their roots leave the ground. How easy it is to go from being a thing to nothing. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her work appears in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications have been Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Silver Birch Press, Abyss and Apex, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Albanian, Italian, Arabic, Polish and Persian. She is the co-author of a digital poetry chapbook entitled Nyctophiliac Confessions available through Praxis Magazine. More about her published works can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com.

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How to Make a Walking Stick
by Joe Cottonwood

Find a branch that has fallen from a tree.
Ask the tree if you may use this wood.
Wait for the answer (sometimes trees are slow).
Listen to the call of the crow, the bark of the fox.
If bird or fox speak, they speak for the tree,
and the answer is Yes.
Or if no animal calls, if no wind rustles,
but if the tree does not say No,
thank the tree for providing this solid stake.
Grasp the wood, rough in your palm.
It will warm to your blood.
It will wear smooth at your touch.
It will bear your weight.
Thank the tree once more.
Now, with stick, walk away.

If on the other hand when
you ask the tree may you use this branch,
if the tree says No,
stop right there.
Why would you walk farther?
You have found a talking tree.

First published in MOON magazine November 2017.

IMAGE: Faerie Folk Tree by Arthur Rackham (1914).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of my grandsons whittled a walking stick for me as a gift. I never asked where he found the wood. But after some reflection, I supplied this answer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of small jobs. His grandchildren think he is a repair god and he tries not to disillusion them. He lives with his high school sweetheart under redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Joe’s latest book is Random Saints.

Hiker in Front of Giant Sequoia
A Texas gal sees the redwoods, for the first time
by Sue Mayfield Geiger

I remember that trip to the redwoods
When you had just 24 hours before your next audition

Your Texas mom, needing a facelift, agreed
To go up the California coast to see

the massive beauties that had captured your soul
“You have to see these!” you said

Off we went with no agenda, little money
But you were persistent even though you knew

You could be called back at any time from
Your agent, telling you to show up for another

Audition, drop ’em dead, get the part, this
Could be it; or not; or maybe; who knows

Life is always about taking a chance,
Honing your craft, giving it your all

But right now, we were on a mission
Taking your below sea level mother

To the higher points of your state where
Trees dominated the sky, defying aging

Getting called back to L.A. numerous times
We’d take off again. You, not an unnerved bone

In your body.

Countless trips back and forth gave us a window
When two weary-eyed souls finally stopped

At a Starbucks and spent $40 on overpriced pastries
And expensive coffee before we fainted from exhaustion

Until we reached our destination and by God!
You were right.

It was worth it!

PHOTO: Old-growth forest, California, by Welcomia, used by permission.

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PHOTO: The author’s son, Adam Mayfield, in a grove of redwoods near Leggett, California, by Sue Mayfield Geiger (2013).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Mayfield Geiger is a freelance magazine writer, now in her seventh decade. She does not tweet or have a Facebook page. She got an English degree at age 57; sang professionally by the age of 20 (worked with Kenny Rogers); did a tandem parachute jump when she turned 50; has interviewed several celebrities, most memorable was Willie Nelson at his ranch near Austin; became a runway fashion model after the birth of her second son when she was in her early thirties; sang at that same son’s wedding reception in Guadalajara in 2016; soaked in the hot springs of Esalen at Big Sur, California at two a.m. with millions of stars above the night sky. She has traveled to Scotland, England, France, Italy, Bahamas, Mexico, and several states in the U.S., but her favorite adventure of all was tent camping at Inks Lake State Park, Texas, while growing up. The smell of bacon frying on a Coleman camp stove always finds its way into her meditation.

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Under the Arch of Elms
by Marilyn Zelke-Windau

The breeze would float elm leaves
like the little oval pancakes
we hoped for each Saturday morning
venturing out on a heat buttered griddle.

We’d lie on the grass in the front yard,
count as many as we knew numbers,
think of the serrated knife,
the bread knife,
try to slice pebbles
with elm leaves.

Summer heat trapped the upstairs
of a Chicago bungalow,
made us tired-cry
to sleep out under the arch
of elms.

We pedaled trikes, bikes
in their safe tunnel,
played hopscotch,
four-square, concentration
in the street
of their protection.

Summer green to fall yellow,
we blanketed our dollies
with elm warmth.
November gone, March emerged.
We followed their pattern
and grew, too.

I packed a suitcase
within their shadows,
moved my childhood to the suburbs,
heard they were ill.
Their dying did not open the sky.
Their dying did not open their limb-arms.
Their dying only offered emptiness, youth gone,
a grave under the arch of my elms.

PHOTO: “Elm leaves” by ST8, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Traveling back to a childhood home, on a street now empty of trees, was like going to a funeral. Gone were the beautiful elms of my childhood, their lives taken by Dutch elm disease. Gone also was my youth, but not my memories of it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Zelke-Windau is a Wisconsin poet and a former elementary school art teacher. She enjoys painting with words. Her poems have appeared in many printed and online venues including Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, Your Daily Poem, Midwest Prairie Review, and several anthologies. Her chapbook Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and a full-length manuscript, Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press), were both published in 2014. She adds her maiden name when she writes to honor her father, who was also a writer.

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Talking with Trees, My Imaginary Skill
by Jeannie E. Roberts

Along our road, near the old man’s garden,
behind the patch of corn, the neighborhood oak

waits to greet me. I turn the corner, watch
for her crown, bouffant, bright with October,

and the mellow aura of fall. She motions my way,
“Here, come closer.” Her stance is grounded,

confident; her branches toned with the windswept
succession of years. “I feel your happiness,”

she whispers. “I gain energy from your visits.
Through the seasons, you’ve given me strength.”

I thank her and reply, “You’re the reason for my
happiness. Your friendship and example have

given me courage. You’ve shown me that change
is the only constant, and the consistency of change

is rooted in the power of perseverance, right down
to the pith of it―in the cycle of birth and rebirth.”

We say goodbye. I bow. She bends. “Until
tomorrow, My Friend.”

I walk away smiling, knowing my imaginary skill
is not imaginary at all.

PHOTO: The Neighborhood Oak in October, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (Photo by Jeannie E. Roberts.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Living midst the natural beauty of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley, it’s easy to lose oneself within its bounty. When I walk and explore the area, I’ve found that I not only greet the birch, oak, and pine, but also catch myself chatting with the critters along the way. Season after season, I stand in awe of our trees, forests, and woodlands. Henry David Thoreau said it best, “I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts‘s fourth book, Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is the author of Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book (2009).She writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings.  Learn more about Jeannie at www.jrcreative.biz.

Author photo by Bruce Pecor.