"What Dresses You Each Day in Hardwood" by Lois P. Jones


What Dresses You Each Day in Hardwood

It is October, the season for hunting
white tails. Something has entered the grove —
your mother’s stern form as birch.
She is thin from frowning. She has born
the mark of your brother on her bark.
You can no longer regard her image
or look into its warnings. Even though you tried
to free him from a winter that sliced
his hooves. You took his hand when the arrow
breached skin and calmed
his eyes. There were years when the wind
awakened him with the applause
of dead leaves. Now you wonder whether
he will stand again. He has returned to the crepuscule
you will not enter. Outside, you are a sleepwalker
that knows her way to the cellar
door. Your mother is the birch that follows,
rising quickly no matter where you are. Even
as you leave the smell of hospital ammonia to hoarfrost.
Even this cold cannot keep her roots from catching
place. What will you do now that no hour
is clear felled and she has merged with the soil?
Soon the moss will grow. Soon her eyes will cover
with lichen and there will be birches in every room.

Originally published in Night Ladder.

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Lois P. Jones

Lois P. Jones was a finalist in the 2018 Terrain Poetry Contest, judged by Jane Hirshfield. Awards include the Lascaux Poetry Prize in 2018, the Bristol Poetry Prize in 2017, and the Tiferet Poetry Prize in 2012, with work shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in poetry in 2016 and 2017. Jones has work published or forthcoming in New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (Vallentine Mitchell of London, 2019), Narrative, The American Poetry Journal, One, Tupelo Quarterly, Glass, Cider Press Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jones’s first collection of poems, Night Ladder, won the Glass Lyre Press Editor’s Choice Award and was long-listed for the Julie Suk Award. She hosts KPFK’s Poets Café in Los Angeles and is the poetry editor of Kyoto Journal.

Headshot: Lia Brooks

Photo Credit: Peter Shefler