Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2020 by Elise Paschen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“During this period of social distancing and staying home, I appreciate now, more than ever, each encounter with the natural world. I am grateful to remember the time last winter when I wrote this poem. We were visiting my aunt, who is in her nineties, down south, and took a hike through the wetlands. This poem is about the interrelationships in nature. It’s about how we connect with each other.”

Elise Paschen


Elise Paschen

Elise Paschen is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The Nightlife (Red Hen Press, 2017). She teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. An enrolled member of the Osage Nation, Paschen lives in Chicago.

Date Published: 2020-04-06

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