By Rebecca Greenberg
The air is humid and cold and saturates the trees,
Drapes our shoulders,
Rests over the sky like a glass lens.
Our footsteps sink into rain-steeped undergrowth
And puddles lurk,
Clandestine and treacherous.
Water seeps into our socks like bad dreams—
We clear the ditches and swollen gullies,
But in reality our toes
Welcome the nylon-defying intruder:
It isn’t the same wetness
As that which streams down our foreheads
On August afternoons
Or the kind that fell
When our race wasn’t canceled.
This is the wetness of fairy rains and dew,
A wetness that transforms a vast glade
Into a microcosm of the planet Earth,
Above which myriad moisture minutiae
Coalesce into sashes of mist
Like a miniature atmosphere,
As though the blanket that swaths the Earth
Had sunk, floated down below
Like tissue paper.
The droplets that burrow
Through the netting of our sneakers
Are silent crumbs of catharsis, which we absorb
As if they were those of some feast
We had missed—
They penetrate our clothes
by the power of their will,
As through some occult orifice in our bodies
Only they had found,
Or perhaps simply
Through the pores of our skin
Till we lose our human substance,
Dissolving into earth, tree, and frond—
Our essence drunk by dandelions.
Ode to the Pen
Tiniest of trees,
You bear no boughs or fruit
But let your sap flow generously from within,
Your lustrous black trunk a
Cornucopia of nascent wisdom.
You are a god, Pen, hiding in your modest shape of plastic
Among us mortals—
You etch the first trail of blue on the white void,
Your immortal footsteps
Which our eyes seek tirelessly,
Looking among paragraph-hills and sentence-hawthorn
Like children do Easter eggs.
Pen, you never leave the poet alone to conquer the sterile barrier
Of the white page, and when summoned, you scratch contentedly,
Snug between my thumb and index like a bee in a foxglove.
And while I, feverish, let spill my mind on the page,
You offer the entirety of your soul—
Without an afterthought or a cry of protest,
You let the writer’s ideas crawl forth from your womb,
Embryonic daemons that consume the blood of your heart.
Pen, you alone urge my inspiration to take its first step,
Smoothing out my disheveled thoughts into truth,
Which you deposit, warm and bleached on the page
Like a freshly laundered suit.
And though your soul is immortal, Pen,
Mummified in dictionaries, children’s diaries,
At the end your bounty is too elusive, too heavenly,
A warm egg in the crude calloused hands of a giant,
And you, too, fall apart—
Your plastic skeleton shatters,
Forth spills your blue viscera
And you lay bleeding, a dying soldier
Who fought his whole life for the sake of Creation.
And I watch your broken body
With no grace, not a word of thanks,
I curse at your blue soul that stained my hand,
And, Mother of Stories, Shaper of Worlds,
Indifferently toss your remains away.
What Poetry Doesn’t Know
I like the idea of writing poems half-buried
in knee-high grass, the sun burnishing my back
and gilding my hair, a beetle scaling
a grass shaft and pausing at the top of the precipice
as if tasting a saline breeze, my toes untrammeled
by sandals, losing themselves in the earth,
dandelions and bluebells woven in my locks,
a long sedge stem dangling from my lips,
the whirring of thrushes regaling my ears.
The verses would come easily—
the meadow itself would exude poetry
and I’d pick the pollen-dusted metaphors
from their tendrils, drink the similes
swimming in the dewdrops,
and place them tenderly on the page.
I sink into tall grass dotted with buttercups,
a moleskin journal nestled in my hand.
I slide to the level of the grass roots
with the same liquid movements
as an otter gliding through a stream,
artfully arrange my skirt so that it exposes
my lower thighs and calves,
the skin appearing in patches of cream slashed
by tussock blades, my shoulders propped up,
the moleskin cradled between:
a fallen white-breasted bird.
Absorbing the impeccable lighting, the rich hues,
and conjuring up the image of myself—
a sylph in seductive solitude,
I do not see the earwigs
slip down my camisole until it was too late—
and the grass shafts prick and scratch my legs
with incessant vehemence, until I toss
and roil about under a broiling sun,
so that at the end of my valiant perseverance,
the only tokens of my poetic outing are
prints of chlorophyll that pock
the journal, and scratches inscribing
my thighs with verses of red crescents.
Rebecca Greenberg grew up in a French-American family in Providence, RI. She is currently a junior at the Wheeler School in Providence. Besides creative writing, her interests include drawing, cross-country running, and hiking.