How We Stilled the Leaves of Every Alder

By BRANDI KATHERINE HERRERA

i am breathless in the unnamed woods.
inspiritus, prana, pneuma, qi.
we carry provisions.
canteens.
one of us carries a gun.
we wait for someone to break the silence.

not even an august breeze.
our breath is shallow.
how carefully we listen for birdsong.
the choir of poplar, oak, walnut.
how it begins to rain.
how we fashion makeshift umbrellas.
how we watch for the flashes of ruffling rust.
how our chatter becomes repetitive notes.
we stop and survey the distance.
how i fill the gun’s pneumatic body.
how i line the sight with the steel barrel.
i am thinking of roast chicken.
of the weeping willows.
how i cock the model rifle like a toy.
how i place my finger through the keyhole.
how quickly i forget the flutter as it falls through branches.
how i drop the gun.
how i turn to flee.
how i do not ask for assistance.
i am thinking of lemonade sundays.
of ancient egypt.
five of us in the unnamed woods.
watching the earth as it mimics feathers.
how the sighs of leaves envelope us.
i am thinking of swimming pools.
of cornfield mazes.
how i do not ask for forgiveness.
or search for the body.
how without a word my rank is established.
how my aching lungs swallow terror.
spiritus, prana, pneuma, qi.
i do not reach for the map.
i do not attempt to locate its soul.
i do not search for flowers.
i am thinking of my dead sister.
of limestone quarries.
how i pick up a stick.
how i run toward the house.
how their laughter erupts like birdshot.

 

Brandi Katherine Herrera’s poetry, reviews and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Word For/Word, VoiceCatcher, The Oregonian, Charlotte, Written River, Fish Bones Poetry Review, and others.
Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Rhys-s
How We Stilled the Leaves of Every Alder

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