Jim Peterson

They nailed their placards
to the trees, men who
stumbled over spoken words
as children do when on display.

Such messages drew the ire-sap
of Madam Leaf.  So she turned
men’s thoughts into dragon flies
cruising the black swamp at dusk,

their dreams into the blasted hearts
of chicadees roosting in a scrub-oak
ditch, the dark matter of their deep
sleep into small, rabid lizards

clinging to the screens of closed
windows.  Moons rose on posted
blurbs.  Windy rain smeared words,
meanings tied to a single day.

When pruners came to take out
limbs for their high wires
full of signs, Madam Leaf turned
into a girl no more than twelve

but strong as a same-aged oak.
She told a fable in the air with only
the numberless lobes and teeth
of her fingers.  The spell

of her unspelled words rattled
the locked doors of stories
old as the dawn, old as the silence
before voice.  Axe handles fell

to ground, struck roots like saplings
deep into fissures.  Blades
relaxed into random stones.
The girl’s face flickered in the glade.

Return to Fall 2015 Table of Contents