Mom nags, “Don’t swallow that or it’ll grow into a tree.”
Black watermelon flecks splinter. Cherry pits wither.
Tiny kiwi dots get lost. Kumquat gives up the ghost.
I gag on a peach stone. But a tight-housed seed
pared from a fruit Jessie stole from an abandoned lot looks
like pay dirt. Jessie knows how much I wanna be the
climate to grow a little shoot that shoots like his. I choke
it down with a chlorine gulp from the hose. Stretch open
my mouth to the sun. After three days, not even a
tickle. Jessie investigates with flashlight and tongue de-
pressor. See a sprig climbing past my tonsil-trellis, upside down through the wrong mouth? I try to stop making spit in case the sprig’s drowning.
Jessie insists intestines are dirtier than my tummy,
so he lifts my skirt with his magnifying glass. Sand?
Loam? Clay? Enough nitrogen? Jessie wiggles his green
thumb to investigate. With a gentleness I don’t expect,
he tamps the dirt around a hole dug long ago and licks
soil to taste vitamins. The seedling might be thirsty, yes?
I hesitate at the watering can spout. Should I find out this
way, at eight,
Scotia, 1901. We swap a two-man saw
for a lift to the clinic.
Doctor boils water, administers laudanum.
(We dream of felling timber with an axe
the old fashioned way.)
A spill squalls us awake.
is the first diagnosis.
Doctor disappears with the specimen
and returns to show us F
marked on the certificate
next to Laurel, familiar as graded lumber.
We swaddle her in Eliza’s skirt,
bandaging a pale whorl that fists shut.
A strange scar.
Sweet spots hum in a hollow trunk
found by father
working himself to a lather.
“Timber!” echoes at odd hours.
At a safe distance, Laurel takes knife to scrap,
carving peckers from filch-sawn fir,
wings uneven, beak stunted.
Woodpeckers at lesser bark
tap to draw lice and larvae.
They telegraph each other, too:
long misspelled missives
that illiterate trees can’t read
drum across the forest.
Laurel doesn’t suspect peckers’ variety of tongue protuberances:
curled between skull and skin,
barbed for hooking insects,
brush to suck sap,