Tricia Knoll

 

CALIFORNIA SYCAMORE

 

A she, not an it, this tree that highnesses over me
sixty slender graces tall, each on the shoulder of the next
to touch her upper reaches. Three trunks from one root mass
that crawl with small black ants tell of wind’s betrayal,
pruning saws, and camouflage growing from roots that clutch
a granite boulder thicker than my waist.

You, sentinel beside a rushed-down creek. Inside a forest
of others of your kind, silently signal, stand witness.
I touch your bark medallions of gray on weathered ivory,
a pattern copied onto fawns hiding in littered leaves
and uniforms combatants wear into desert wars. You are not easy.
Too many right-angle contortions speak of conflict.
One upper snake-branch withered dead.
Yes, yearn toward the water, lean to thrive.

What stops me is the scar where you lost a fourth trunk,
a sawcut to a limb that leaned too far. A threat to wind
many years ago. You responded to this unkind cut,
secreting an oval scab the color of blood-clot.

This. A vulva, my dear, a burl of blackness
so like the slit of women. I finger dark roughness,
compare it to the sleek silver sheen above.
Within the scar tissue I find the twist
of an owl’s face, night hunger of the raptor.

Around the slash you extruded rolled bulges
of swollen labia. Cellular swelling to violation.
You hold silent to my query of how this came to be.
You sprout months-old twigs on your sun-side base.
She who serves to shade in silence. So often this
is the whole sad, sordid, resilient test of time
that faces the women of the world.

 

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