On Being a Vine

By RAE PARIS

for my niece, who got the part of a vine in The Secret
Garden at her predominantly White school

Your worried face wonders if you can do this. How does
a vine think? What does it feel? Do vines own hearts,
and if so do they beat fast or slow? What about souls?
Maybe when we wake in the night and want a glass of
water or our mothers or fathers or our younger brothers
maybe when we wake our breath caught between this
world and some other maybe it’s the vine souls choking
us to remember their life and do they dream of sun or sky
or clouds all of it up and away reaching toward light or
maybe roots and earth wet and dark and deep? Are their
nightmares of us? And what if the frozen-faced crowd
makes you forget the vine dance your small arms trying
to wrap around giant air on a glaring stage? What then?
What if you stand still, let the world race around you, you,
your own secret light in the eye tangled prayer of hands
beneath your chin? Listen: What we know of vines ain’t
got nothin on you sweetest brown girl greenest thing this
world will ever see.

Rae Paris is from Carson, California. Her work has been supported by a NEA Literature Fellowship, and residencies from Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Hambidge Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, VONA, and Norcroft. Her poem “The Forgetting Tree” was selected as Best of the Net 2013. She teaches fiction at the Bread Loaf School of English, and lives and writes mostly in East Lansing, Michigan where she’s Assistant Professor of English at Michigan State University.

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On Being a Vine

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