Jesse Graves
White ash cradled in the fire grate
            still warm, a hollow body, 
                      seething, hissing, ancient whispers,
a primordial voice, lost language.
Chloe speaks, then the words speak again,
            second sounds barely catching waves—
                      untold meanings float between us,
pockets of air tremble with the unknown. 
Speaks then listens. Caged words. Superstructure.
Does the mind suspect betrayal in the throat?
                           *                         *                         *
Walk past it in the woods and you might mistake 
the white ash for a hickory, with the same leaf-bunches,
same bone-colored bark, but don’t be fooled—
you can know the ash by the length of its scars.
It looks burned already.
                           *                         *                         *
Chloe climbs and never looks down. She finds a perch
between branches, a nest, a post for the look-out.
Her eyes skip the middle distance, scan the horizon.
She’s seven years old, thirty feet in the air, 
feathered in a bright red waistcoat, seeing the unseen,
and for a second, I half-expect her to fly to the next tree.
                           *                         *                         *
I speak to the animals, she says, they know my heart.
                           *                         *                         *
The meaning in our lives usually stands right beside us.
We might pick it up and carry it across a path,
                      lift it to a higher seat, but we never own it.
Just as what another person’s life meant at one moment,
                      a speck on the continuum,
gave us our birth, and the mind we fathom it with,
we may father and mother,
                                 admonish and protect what our lives mean.
We name it, yet never again know the trail it moves along.
                           *                         *                         *
Natural intelligence. Closeness to the earth’s mechanisms. 
When leaves whisper in the wind, she quiets,
                        her lips move but make no sound,
some private language threads out through her limbs.
What Chloe hears hangs before me, a stretched canvas
             she works at with delicate gestures,
                                    her brush a half-inch above the surface.

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