Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 13 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2021-2022

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Arborscapes: A Companion

Woods are shorter than forests, full of deciduous trees
that slap the autumn sky with color. Squirrels. Song
birds. Morels pickle hillsides, and toadstools, even the
poisonous ones, are hilariously orange. If you are lost in
the woods, a stray dog might keep you warm all night.
The sun gives you direction, and water is bound to be
somewhere if you just listen. Soon you’ll hear mooing
or traffic noise, smoke smell, clapboard house and a
farmer’s wife gives you hot chocolate and lends you a
sweater. But if you are lost in the forest you are truly
lost. No sunshine on the needle duff. Stillness as the
birds of prey study you. All the predators know you’re
there, behind and ahead of you, bosky and shadowed.
Fungi grow perversely, slickly stunted. When you come
to the big rock for a third time, that’s a bad sign. The
only thing to eat is gritty watercress from an icy stream.
A motorcycle gang you’ve avoided all your life who
owns this forest-- you wish for them to roar down the
logging road now. You can like being lost in the woods,
but you need to be lost in the forest.

 

When buying a home, always ask to see the Map of Abandoned Dreams

Note the incomplete French Drain which became Le Great Tarpaper Bay,
highlighted in winter by the Visquean Memorial Bundle. The owner’s ladder,
Death Wish, rests against the gutters he douched with the hose. Near the Door
No One Ever Opens by the inviting Bench No One Ever Sits On, Mulch Berms
never release their goodness knowing they’ll be replaced before they can
compete their work Arid Bird Bath compliments Big Tree with Ghost of Tree
House No One Ever Played In. Twig X-ings litter the yard and can drive a
person crazy. Here is What The Streetsweeper Missed and the music of
Cement Strummed With A Rake. Two Attempts at Landscape gasp in the front
yard. Invisible sign that reads: No sticks. Dead leaves not welcome. Driving
On Wrong Side Of Street Zone along property to mailbox. In the back, Washed
Rock Basin, bathed by hand twice yearly. A Peripatetic Labyrinth spanning
three backyards the owner followed on his quest for entries in the Pine Cone
Derby, filling The Ancestral Yard Waste Bag with infinite cones from Maimed
Trees to allow more sun on Le Great Tarpaper Bay. Mystery Zone we believe
contains a Patio with Unused Grill and Lawn Furniture Covered With Plastic,
Half-Inflated Pool for the Grandkids That Never Visit.

 

Big at the Cup, Low at the Curb

This starts like the same poem I wrote last April.
Most things feel the same, trapped in our rooms.
We quit washing groceries, that’s about it.
Safety of the yard. One or two friends.
Silence of the house except for tv when it works
and then George Floyd dies over and over.
Most people only have to do it once.
He does it for the prosecutors and the defense,
for bystanders cell phone videos.
Remember he is not the one on trial.
He dies at the knee of the cop, on a gurney
for the paramedics and again at the hospital.
He needs a Jesus to free him from his deaths.
On the stand a witness says she prays to George Floyd
every night to forgive her for not being able to stop it.
A memory garden outside Cup’s now.
A year of George Floyd asking for his mother.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske spends her time working for poetry in the community. Her latest book is Art Speaks with painter Mary Hatch. She lives in a spruce grove and is as adept at picking up cones as squirrels.