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Felicia Mitchell

  

Dirge

The cherry tree is gone,
its limbs hidden in the woods
so I won’t see them and cry again
to save the blood red fruit that I hold fast to each summer
like my own heart.

My heart is in my mouth now,
it wants to leap out and lie there writhing with me on the grass
next to the last of my cherries
until I am dirty and stained like a woman raped
like a forest.

How can a tree be too close to a house?
It’s the house that should move.
Or the house could learn to coexist.
If cherries stain a roof,
or the limbs of a tree caress an attic,
that is no worse than murder.

Every summer, it’s something:
the hacked wildflowers, the discarded tree,
the herbicide sprayed on the side of the woods.
I am not a practical wife.
I live like a wood sprite
while my husband civilizes everything else he can.

But phantom pain is real.
The tumor in my breast, the cherry tree in the backyard,
the tulip magnolia that would never bloom, the crabgrass,
the violets in the grass—I feel them all, all gone,
the impractical, the unnecessary, the excised.

  

  

Near Penland

After the memorial service,
we buried a salamander instead,
Sylvie picking it up with a leaf
after I spotted it in the road
with its brains oozing out.

We didn’t really bury it,
we tossed it into some Queen Ann’s Lace
on the side of the winding road
on the side of the mountain.
Anything more would have been obvious.

It was a bright red, the red of valentines.
It was as plump as a pair of lips.
It was the red of Jesus’s words in a Bible.
You get my drift.
It was so red it was almost still alive.

Farther down the road, we saw a snake
turning into asphalt, a gray snake
ghost of its former black snake self.
It was past saving.
I took a picture of this dead snake,
to prove art mimics nature.
Sylvie took her jacket off in the rain.

  

  

Bat Moral

Sometimes a bat is just a bat.
It’s not an omen, or a vampire,
or a rabid threat to your good health.
It’s just brown, and lonely,
as confused as you are sometimes
when you turn to find someone
and he has turned another corner.
A bat can be as warm and fuzzy
as you want it to be, or cuter,
but it’s still not a good idea to touch it
even when it ends up in the grass
wrestling your dog at four in the afternoon
when it should be hanging upside down
like a good bat in the rafters
or turning some corner to find the woods.
Bad dog, bad bat, I’m okay, you’re okay,
but it’s still not so good to fight,
not mammal to mammal,
not at four in the afternoon
over who or what belongs in the yard
or who or what should go which way
when there are so many paths to choose from.

   

Felicia Mitchell has published work in a variety of literary journals, including Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and Many Mountains Moving; as well as anthologies such as bite to eat place: an anthology of food poems and poetic prose (Redwood Coast Press) and Our Mothers, Our Selves: Writers & Poets Celebrating Motherhood (Bergin & Garvey). Her chapbook Earthenware Fertility Figure was a 1999 first-prize winner of the Talent House Competition (Oregon). Critical essays have been published in such journals as Poets & Writers, Mid-American Review, and Women's Studies Quarterly. She recently edited Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women's Poetry (University of Tennessee). Mitchell lives in southwestern Virginia, where she teaches at Emory & Henry College.
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