She sits in the buckthorn’s shade,
its branches toothed and berried
black-blue as a bruise's center.
It does not belong here any more
than her, invasive and spitting
forth its many-limbed progeny
like a nest of angry snakes. It must
be purged, cut back and stump-
ground—there will be no rising
from this grave. She touches one
spined twig, lets the thorn pierce
her finger like a cat's sickled claw.
How does one learn to let go?
Wind-shivered, the bush shakes
its gloss of green-tinctured leaves,
its garlands of poison fruit.
As if to say the flesh does not know.
As if the answer will always be no.
Rebecca Dunham is the author of two poetry collections, The Flight Cage and The Miniature Room, and she is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.