by Kate Dlugosz
Summer breathes open white blooms of elder and wild cherry, warm and sweet and wild. Pollen collects on the sunset purple of borage and aster. You are bathing in a pool of sunlight, apricot and honey gold. I pass through the flowering hawthorn to where you wait for me. We sit beneath the elm tree storytelling the sky, the clouds and the swallows and the emerald moths. You teach me to listen to the songs of orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Our eyes watch their flight through the twisting canopies. Leaf shadows as stars, lulling the daylight, and I follow your bravery into the dark of the woods
where we ventured last summer in search of lunar moths, those faeries of seafoam green and lace, clinging to the light of moonflowers and primrose. Your eyes see through the darkest hours, to the river of starlight, the moon splintered silver through the treetops. You press elm seeds into my hair. I braid the leaves into a crown for your head, a deep green, the color of your eyes and my heart and of wildness.
The loss as summer grows.
At the edge of the woods waits the elm tree, her graceful crown of leaves embracing the blue sky. I follow the guidance of tree roots in search of you, to where you have gone away between the swaying goldenrod and coneflower, before the first chill on my skin from seasons passing in ripening apples and the wilting of wildflowers. In your absence, the warmth of honeyed sunlight wanes. I notice everything rotting because you are not here. Surrendering to ache, I fold myself into broken tree limbs, cores of empty heartwood, riddled with the green copper shine of beetle wings. To reconcile that summer reclaims as much as it renews, the way young leaves fall from branches, in broken robins’ eggs, in hooked thorns of wild blackberries. The soil stays dark and growing.
Upon the descent of evening, I gaze to the lengthening shadows between the trees. The elm leaves turn their undersides to the sky before the rain. Entwined amid the elm branches in a mist of soft black, the gossamer veil between worlds unravels. Words choke in my throat, emerge as spider silk, spinning silver, surrendering to the pull of wind over the hills. I weep cloud color, rain color, storm color. Sorrow gouges a hole in my heart, still beating as it fills and empties. I press myself to the forest floor. I think of you, lamb-soft and fearless. You go where I cannot follow, beyond the dark woods, beneath the brambles and the ferns and the soil.
Once buried, grief flowers bluebells and catmint and cosmos.
The night quiets. Starlight guides me to the edge of the woods where I wait again beneath the elm. I want to tell you the garden is in bloom, bountiful and growing, and it has only been a week and I am weaker still, my heart snapped like the stems of dandelions under the weight of summer. A lunar moth glides to a moonflower, searching for something made of light. Together in that shared longing, the moth and I listen to the wind breathe through the treetops, to the shower of leaves through the night air. I gather dirt in my hands,
the muscle memory of braiding flower crowns. The taste of earth at the back of my throat. I thought I would turn from the sun, my heart decayed to black humus, but the sky lightens from charcoal to heather to rose. The dawn sunshine drenches the woods with soft golden threads, the forest a dark loom, and my hands weave the strands of light into the soil, through the dew on the spiderwebs and wildflowers, along the green canopies.
And tangled in my hair, a small winged elm seed.
Kate Dlugosz is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Hiram College with a BA in Creative Writing, and her work weaves together themes of femininity, folklore, and nature. Her writing has appeared in Yes Poetry, Burning House Press, Dear Damsels, and Wyrd and Wyse. When she is not writing, she is wandering the hills and forests listening to the stories of trees, wildflowers, and owls. Find her on twitter at @flower_faced.