Inside the wheelbarrow in the forest, I’m learning to spell the planet’s true names,
not from origin or desire, but kindling: barrow crunching across fallen spines of pine.
Grandmother tossing twigs into the hold. Me birdlike, nesting, reciting the letters
when the event escapes and I fly toward my mother’s face in the moon,
fly back to pear leaves garnet-red on the iron dirt of her fresh grave.
Trumpets of geese, tadpoles undulating in a dark spring.
An interior, not the house, awaits fireplace kindling.
I keep losing my touch at seeing through-lines: Grandfather
peels his nightly orange inside a skin of citrus aroma. The orange is the whole world.
Spell it for a quarter, he says, calling me into being. Belonging thick as orange rind,
thin as old air-mail stationery. Juice burns my eyes. Extinctions accrue:
Scarlet frog in the cloud forest, fringe-limbed tree frog, gastric-brooding frog with babies
born through her mouth, spring peepers surviving the winter frozen solid, like popsicles.
Explaining frogs to my granddaughter, I show her a fallen
magnolia bud encased in ice.
She’s the youngest child I’ve held connected to the oldest person I’ve touched,
Grandfather with his orange gone into night, sleep, the stars. Luella knows time as long,
not vanishing. Sharing two hundred years of presence,
we study dried orchids and spell ululation, translucent as frogs
in the silvered thaw of what will happen.
HT Harrison is the author, as Heather H. Thomas, of Vortex Street (FutureCycle Press, 2018); Blue Ruby (FootHills Publishing); Resurrection Papers (Chax Press); Practicing Amnesia (Singing Horse Press), twice a National Poetry Series finalist; and other poetry collections. Her poems won the honorable mention for the 2022 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and the 2016 Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Published in many literary journals, her work is translated into Albanian, Arabic, Italian, Lithuanian, Spanish, and Swedish. She lives in Reading, PA, teaches poetry, and admires the ancient Japanese artists who changed their names to protect their freedom.