Meditations On Mistletoe

By Shelly Norris

For Johnny

At first, it isn’t clear
how our beginnings are like these
tiny seeds
held fast against the twig’s bark—suspended
between inertia and division—
in milky droppings of mistletoe birds.

If and when each seed wakes
it will bore its life-
long umbilical into the oak’s
green pulp, plumbing the sustenance
neither can survive without.
The old grandmothers knew:

The season to gather mistletoe sprigs;
the dose that is poison;
the dose that is medicine;
the secret hour to drink
the bitter song that summons forth
what cycles inside women before

they are bound in the vine’s
terrible need to thrive.
Perhaps it is the soul, that first sprout
with death on its tongue, not
strangling, as you’d expect;
rather, a slow working open, an eating into.

And the tree, torn
between beauty and use, eventually
surrenders to those evergreen tresses.
There is a pride,
a forgiveness where scars bind
vine to branch, visitor to host.

Possibility is holy.
Holiness demands sacrifice.
Our mothers carried red earth, seed,
hunger braiding in their bellies.
To bless their temples, our fathers severed
evergreen garlands with golden scythes.

So still oaken daughters raise pliant limbs
accepting into their trunks
hungry souls of heaven-seed.

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Categories: Issue 4, Poetry | Leave a comment

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