Girl Myth (Arboreal)

by ELIZABETH LINDSEY ROGERS

And while her right hand cradled the old blue telephone, the left snaked around my ribs like those bracings between cliff and vista, or a parent, holding a child up to see the parade. This is how she would lead me out into the green ardor, those subtropical woods in May. See it clearly now: a girl walks, bold, following—no god, but this woman until the girl’s corralled by trees, swallowed inside their silent ring. As it was for Daphne, new leaves unfisted with such fury, I could have never counted them all. But when she first lifted her hand to my ear, I felt the end and beginning of each nerve, that live web under the skin: shimmer, dew, sparks. What is it I asked, but already she was riding the glissando down and down, pausing only to consider knots, those two pinks—like her own— rising above my ribs. When that first word, love, slipped out of my mouth, it was like a strange bird the wrong wind gets hold of, an orange bird hurricaned into the deciduous world, then held against the dead weight of wood. Oh, I was far from home. I should’ve called my mother, but forgot her while the slate-colored clouds began to part. The tallest tree dressed itself in a sash, a light sifting somewhere between brainwash and complete tenderness. There is always this denial, scandering along any form of knowledge: she, who will always say: no, no, it never happened like that, that way you are telling it. How am I left, then, to explain my body’s deep whorl, the permanent arches etched into me. By who else’s hand? What chronology cannot be counted by rings. It is impossible. She wants to convince me of how every girl gives birth to herself: her hands clutching the troubled cord, one foot snared along its root.

ELIZABETH LINDSEY ROGERS is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Missouri Review, FIELD, Washington Square, and many others; her creative nonfiction can be found in The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, and The Journal. She received the 2012-2014 Kenyon Review Fellowship, and is currently the Murphy Visiting Fellow of Literature and Language at Hendrix College. A North Carolina native, she now divides her time between Arkansas and Washington, D.C.