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 was born and raised in Greensboro, NC, and graduated from Oberlin College in 2007 with degrees in writing and dance. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chautauqua Literary Review, The Country Dog Review, and on Poetry Daily. She was the recipient of an Oberlin College Shansi Fellowship and lived and taught in the rural Shanxi province of China from 2007-2009. She will begin an MFA in creative writing at Cornell University this fall.