Angel Oak

by Therese Gleason Carr

Great tree
teach me how to live,
to bear thousands of days and nights,
how to witness
and survive.
What your hollow eyes have seen—
how heavy your twisted limbs
outstretched in tortuous pursuit of heaven,
how sinewy your roots
mooring you to the ground.
You rest one massive branch on the earth
genteel as a proffered arm
and humble as a bended knee,
your head bowed
your face veiled
by a mantilla of Spanish moss.

Your corrugated bark
stippled with gray barnacles—
protection for woody bones,
ancient marrow, spirits
sheltering in your secret crannies.
Tree of history
tree of beauty and pain
angel of shade and shadow
shake out your leafy mane,
bless me with flecks of dappled yellow
and saltwater rain.

Forthcoming in the chapbook Matrilineal (2021), available for preorder at Finishing Line Press.

* Writing Prompt: During the pandemic, I began to rediscover the natural world on long walks around my neighborhood, taking solace in the stamina of plants and animals. Take a walk, noticing your surroundings; catalogue at least one observation from nature for each of the five senses. Pocket a leaf, pebble, petal, or seed. Directly address this talisman, or some other element of nature that struck you—thank it, question it, ask it for advice or forgiveness, celebrate or elegize it.

Ancestry

Partridge Boswell

Bags can look the same. Make sure the one you take is yours.
—Sign posted at baggage claim, Logan Airport

You can see it in their flight-drugged, sleep-weaned faces,
standing newly dead on the banks of Lethe, ingenuous
and fated, waiting for their old lives to come gliding into

view along the conveyor belt, their unborn selves
ghosting in utopias of imagination, souls miscarried
or aborted, floating latent within them, reabsorbed.

The red eye from Salt Lake too short to qualify as sleep,
they straggle in to claim their duffels and skis still wet
from waist-deep powder, zombies staggering under a pall

of airport fluorescence in a liminal zone more resigned
than expectant, metaphysically stark and vacant yet
dragging baggage in flat expressions, a few brief furtive

glances across the carousel at others they shared dreamless
sleep with in a silent dark-winged nave only a gate and
escalator ago—a congregation all praying the same prayer

of home—averting their waking gaze back to the opening
through which sacks of trappings will pass for each to grab
and go his or her own separate way to work, school or bed

as necessity dictates, deftly shifting from subjunctive back
to indicative, journeys summarily terminated in the swift
snatch and scatter as the herd sips its waterhole dry.

Leaving one lone half-dazed zebra still wearing his pillow
like a horse collar around his neck, staring at an empty belt,
trying to recall what, if anything, he may have checked.

* Writing Prompt: What will you carry with you into this awakening? After so long and much up in the air, does your new bird’s-eye view discern more clearly what’s essential and worth salvaging from what’s now moot and expendable? Seize this open window of clarity to sing resilience—revisit an idea or experience, or even an “unfinished” poem you wrote pre-pandemic. If the promise of your “old new” is worth keeping, retune that music in the spirit of our becoming.


Therese Gleason

Therese Gleason is author of Libation (2006), selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition, and Matrilineal (Finishing Line Press, 2021). A Pushcart nominee, her work has recently appeared/is forthcoming in The Worcester Review, America, New Ohio Review, San Pedro River Review, Literary Mama, Psaltery & Lyre, Halfway Down the Stairs, SWWIM, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. An MFA candidate at Pacific University, she teaches literacy in Worcester, MA, where she lives with her husband and three children.


Partridge Boswell

Partridge Boswell is the author of Some Far Country (Grolier Poetry Prize). His poems have recently surfaced in Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Salmagundi, American Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Prairie Schooner and The Moth. Co-founder of Bookstock Literary Festival, he troubadours widely with the poetry/music group Los Lorcas, whose debut release Last Night in America (2021) is available on Thunder Ridge Records.