Aerial, Wild Pine

A flare of russet,
green fronds, surprise
of flush against
the bare grey cypress
in winter woods.

Cardinal wild pine,
quill-leaf airplant
or dog-drink-water.
Spikes of bright bloom–
exotic plumage.

How they contour
against the trunk.
I miss that closeness
against my skin,
milky expression.

Before they latched,
their grief revealed
in such a flash.
Seekers of light,
poised acrobats.

Over the wetlands
a snail kite skims
tallgrass, then swoops
to scoop the apple
snail in curved bill.

The provenance
of names, of raptor
and prey, the beak,
like a trap door,
unhinging flesh.

The way two beings
create a space
for one another—
the bud to branch,
tongue against nipple.

More by Elise Paschen

Acrobat

The night you were conceived
we balanced underneath a tent,

amazed at the air-marveler,
who, hand-over-hand, seized the stars,

then braved the line to carry home
a big-top souvenir umbrella.

Earth-bound a year, you dare
gravity, sliding from the couch

to table. Mornings, on tiptoe, 
stretching fingers, you grab 

Saturn, Venus and the moons 
raining down from the sky of ceiling.

Division Street

                         ". . . Prayer book and Mother, shot themselves last Sunday."
                                        Gwendolyn Brooks


The spire of Holy Name Cathedral rose like a prayer
above Chicago Avenue. I thumbed a leather-bound book
in catechism class, recited the Hail Mary. Fire and
devils blazed at night. The nuns told my mother
I had a calling. On Scott Street a man lay shot
dead in our alley. It was the Gold Coast.  They prided themselves
on sidewalks safe as shrines. I questioned God, the last
to leave the room. Riots flared in Cabrini-Green that Sunday.

After the Squall

In need of air, she unhinged every
window, revolving ones downstairs,
upstairs skylights, mid-floor French doors,
swept into the house the salt-brine,
the cricket chirp, the osprey whistle,
the sea-current, sound of the Sound,
but had not noticed the basement
bedroom window shielded by blinds,
screen-less. Later that night when they
returned home, lights illuminating
the downstairs hall, insects inhabited
the ground floor rooms. She carried handfuls
of creatures across a River Styx—
the katydids perched on lampshades,
beach tiger beetles shuttling across
floorboards, nursery web spiders splotching
the ceiling—trying to put back
the wild fury she had released.

Related Poems

I Hear You Call, Pine Tree

       I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill, by the silent                 pond
where the lotus flowers bloom, I hear you call, pine tree.
       What is it you call, pine tree, when the rain falls, when the                       winds
blow, and when the stars appear, what is it you call, pine tree?
       I hear you call, pine tree, but I am blind, and do not know                         how to
reach you, pine tree. Who will take me to you, pine tree?

in the meadow magenta

(reading Robert Duncan in Haldon Forest)

bloom looks
like lupine from afar
but up close the small bell-
like flowers of wild hollyhock

        the holy that forth
        came that must

come mystery
of frond fern
gorse a magic
to which I

        relate to
        land of hillock and

bolder the grayer
sky and wood
the straight flat One
between them barred

        by the bushy Scots pine
        medicinal veridian of ever-

green which though
gossip rumor spell
or chance change us
is not changed

Grasses

Who
would decry
instruments—
when grasses
ever so fragile,
provide strings
stout enough for
insect moods
to glide up and down
in glissandos
of toes along wires
or finger-tips on zithers—
   though
   the mere sounds
   be theirs, not ours—
   theirs, not ours,
   the first inspiration—
   discord 
   without resolution—
who 
would cry
being loved,
when even such tinkling
comes of the loving?