TWO POEMS by Anne Barngrover

/ / Issue 13, Uncategorized



            –after Hurricane Irma

                          I learn the facts about what we’ve lost:

             palm trees don’t form annual rings.

You’d find their age in the Bible or Quran, old as Oil
             Palm, Fan Palm, or Windmill Palm:

                            I learn these descendants of a common line.

             Assyrians believed the sign of eternal life

was a palm beside a stream, but what if the men
            who poison rivers are always the last to drink?

                          Yellowed fronds mean too much rain.

            It’s hard to start over after a great change,

but if they’re not cut for tables or sold as seeds,
           palms can outlive a home. And I’m so tired

                        of Midwesterners in boat shoes

           who tweet, Why would anyone live there?

from their Puritanical woods that expire
              in annual gray. Because people who reside

                             in paradise deserve to suffer sometimes—

              oh, but they’ll vacation here! It’s unnatural for you to live

 where you’re supposed to unwind. Queen Palm,
                  Wild Date Palm, Sugar Palm or Wine:

                                I learn the five hands of palmistry.

                  My hand is a Wood Hand, its knuckles thick

and fingers long, my mind stubborn and heart
            often wrong. What scares me most is the idea

                         of deep time, or everwhen—which is a breath

            away from evergreen—though not at all the same.

The Earth remembers our sins, for time is not
          a tree trunk pushing forward but the wheel

                        within that churns and scars,

          like how when I was thirteen the junior high

librarian stopped me in the hallway and insisted,
             But your family was in the basement once the tornado hit

                                         your house, and I had to shake my head, no.

             How teens drove to my neighborhood, parked

next to the Red Cross. They wanted to see roots
             gutted from soil, brick chimney that smashed a car.

                           They brought popcorn for themselves.

             And I’m not easy to move to tears, but still I cried

for the maples and oaks that fell in my backyard.
             What I mean is, trees take the wind

                            to spare the walls. Bottle Palm, Spindle Palm—

            in a garden on Mauritius there grows

the Loneliest Palm, single specimen
            of a single species, most solitary of any kingdom.

                           It’s enclosed in a box of metal wire,

            a dot on a dot on a map of the world that’s strewn

with broken palms. I learn flowers once glowed
            on this last palm in the colors of white

                           and cream. Humans tried to intervene.

            It hasn’t bloomed in years.






              but now I live in a rainforest

and the thing I can’t save
               is me. Let’s get to that later on.

A rainforest should be studied
               in fours: emergent layer, canopy,

understory, forest floor. Self-watering.
              Oldest ecosystem. My doctor explains

that the brain speaks to gland hormones
              which speak to the ovaries

which speak to the uterus—or something
              along those lines. I try to write

it down as fast as my hand can move.
             An osprey flies above me with a fish

caught in its talons. The fish still looks
             me in the eye. What is it they say

about a bird of prey overhead?
             I’m afraid to Google my fortune.

I know I sound paranoid, but the rainforest
             is a cutthroat environment.

One must innovate
             in order to survive. They tell me

nine vials of blood is less
            than it seems, but if my bad

numbers are from stress, I plan
            to sue Paul Ryan for damages.

Just don’t write about
            climate change! The word

 cervix is polarizing, and no one wants
            to hear about your pelvic floor,

complex though it may be.
            What is it they say about women

and our bodies? Sometimes we feel
             an unconscious reflex to guard

ourselves against a world hell-
             bent on taking everything away.

And sometimes when I sleep
             I wake up to teeth

that no longer fit in my jaw
             or hips that ache from aggressive

curling into a creature of the soil.
             The forest floor is the most intricate

layer of the four. Light can’t reach
             me forever. What is it they say

about sympathetic overload? I have
             my students write a research paper

in which there’s a solution
             for every problem. I ask them why

did I structure the assignment
             this way, and they don’t know

enough about despair to answer.
              I could list all those who poison

and seize, but the rainforest works
              to rebalance the numbers. My God.

Do women and rainforests
              have to do everything?

I don’t live in a real rainforest.
              It’s just a forest that’s humid,

dark, and tropical, so dense
              I could find my way inside

and you might never see me return.