Sap

I ask the tree to register
Me and it stings—
What for…?
Some ridiculous itch
Nibbles, hails hate
Hiding plain, insight
A twitching
Claw-gripped pendant
Fixed against its
Bark lapels.
A glimpse and this

Network exposed,
An almost
Ancient urge to lick or for
A loam and petrichor
Scent, s’il vout plait,
Perfumier. Something to match

the umbered amber drip, its
grip, its scratch, its un-
Straight stretch
Towards warning.
Femme, Look up!
That patch of flame
In the limb pit—worry
Winter amplifies. Will it
Spread? Will spring
Wrest mourning with
Its feckless inflammation
Of flowers. Will me to pick

Some new arboreal
Altar to shove adoration
Toward? Effulgent
Ignorance, but real—such
Anxiety!—this. I would miss
It if it changed
Too much. My favorite,
I call it friend.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. She is currently at work on The Coal Tar Colors, her third poetry collection, and Purchase, a collection of essays. She teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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