a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
inside, a fire
in every room
At 14° above zero, the leathery leaves release their intensity of curl, begin their slow rise, defy gravity one degree at a time. In silhouette, the whorled leaves droop loose from their petioles, oddly the same angle and shape as praying mantis wings. In pre-dawn shadow, a single bud shapeshifts into an insect head and the leaf-mantis perches, frozen in its devotion. At 31° the ring of leaves flatten out and up like a fan, can almost flutter but have no flex. How like my midwinter spirits—they could use such a lift.
the pileated calls
At exactly zero degrees, the tightest rolled leaves I’ve seen hang straight down—at each end, the leaf’s pale inside peeks out, a sharpened tip, each cluster of leaves like so many pencils suspended without a holder. Brittle to touch, they feel like paper but contain no script—the way, in my dry winter brain, thought gets caught between idea and fruition. Then, after the ice storm and three days at 5° encased in winter’s glass, the leaves belie the true outside: they all lay open, shine broad and flat, caught in the memory of a warmer time.
tree trunks rub and creak
the big dipper drops
out of the clouds
Today, as dawn sheds a hint of light, the snow-covered shrub tells me it is 28°. Each ovoid leaf is barely cupped, hangs at ease from the juncture of bud. There is some softening in the world. Small hummocks of fluffy powder rest on every green curve, delicate and still.
but connect a leaf to the stem that is
itself not a stem but what
supports and swells
at the pulvinus: a sheathing of blade
at base allows each leaf
of shifting orientation
when the wind
causes the greenness to fold until the Fall
which is really a push —
each leaf leaves the branch from a push:
self-destruction built in as self-
protection: the tree cuts what it needs to live
scissors its supply chokes its veins
this slender connection
can barely hold on
steadily increases its dangle
lets a firm wind finish the rest
the way a hand can caress
and take everything
the first line is inspired by Ross Gay’s “Ode to the Tongue Orchid”
Alison Granucci is a poet, writer, and naturalist living in the Hudson Valley. In 2005, she founded Blue Flower Arts, a literary speaker’s agency, the first in this country to represent poets, and upon retiring in 2020 began writing her own poetry. Her work is published or forthcoming in Terrain.org, EcoTheo Review, Great River Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Subnivean Journal (Poetry Award finalist), The Dewdrop, and Little by Little, the Bird Builds Its Nest (Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid) an anthology of bird poems by Paris Morning Publications. She was awarded a 2023 Artist-in-residence at Trail Wood, homestead of naturalist Edwin Way Teale, and is a graduate of the Brooklyn Poets Mentorship Program, 2022. Alison serves a reader for The Rumpus, and is currently at work on a book-length manuscript.