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Breaking Free, Morgan Elser 
Breaking Free

So many of your branches have been cut
from your toes to your heart, that the scars sit
like dead carnations on your skin.
As if you, the jilted groom at a funeral each year
could never remove the plumes from your bark.

It is a chore to die slowly. Most work at dying
fast enough to barely feel. Here
in our once fertile forest, you try to hide the hollows
behind your smile, but disease invades the leaf.
We see the color of it first. It is in your face.

We are tonsured trees who live half in dirt
and half in air and drown, though there is no water.
We are not the fresh seedlings in damp sod
we once were. Our wood’s worn gray.
We wonder if our phoenix can survive on cut nerves.

You contemplate if any part of you is still alive.
I question what parts of you have already died.
I remember roots, they seemed steadfast and deep.
I remember leaning back into reality
my torso bent to the sky as if each breast

a bloom searching for light. I
remember a dove whistling Ode to Joy, a squirrel
clicking at a playful dog, a spray of moon glow, someone
telling me to place a stick in the earth to tell time.
Tell me something now about time.

Tell me when I will outgrow the sorrow of you. Tell me
about the best of sun and the best of shade. Embracing
being human is hard, as the need to turn from nymph
to person presses in me. My hand vines for life.
Another day flows open, raw and exposed.

Anita Stienstra                                                                                 (photo by Job Conger)