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Issue 8 Poetry Template

Brianna Flavin is a poet from Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is a Loft Mentor

Series fellow, an aspiring master gardener, and a volunteer poetry mentor

with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. Her poems can be found in

TIMBER, Waxwing Literary Journal, The Nashville Review, the Mid-American

Review and others.


What do you call it when someone wants to be with a tree? we type. It’s late,

laughing with friends threaded in the sapwarmth of bourbon,

wiping rain from our eyes. They know it’s a joke

and not a joke, that I don’t just have a gardener’s heart

but a gardener’s whole circulatory system,

surprising me when I slice my hand on the maiden grass

and bleed red. What circles me feels like tonic and amber, something

you could tap to make liquor. What circles me

feels like the reverb of brass, cymbal or gong,

more vibration than sound, pressure against my skin,

metallic in my mouth, blood returning to the soil.

Soil is a word I can’t speak without vibration. When I say soil

a spiderweb thrums, dew beads along each line.

I lose my sentences. When I smell soil, my face goes down

and I wake, smudged.

A dictionary name is dendrophilia, fierce love

of trees, sometimes sexual. Few anecdotes clarify if the passion prefers

certain trees, but I can give specifics—the bole of a birch, a salix

willow whip, risen root of an oak, half encased in earth.

I can tell you some firs and spruces are soft enough

to meet your inner skin while you breathe the spicy warmth

of their resin, that you can feel heat in a ten-below Minnesota

winter under the skirt of a Balsam Fir.

What is the word for loving and longing to be with your places?

Desire to suck, grip, protect the biome you know, the snowmelt

you grew up on, warm pines and mosses,

that scent of gasoline and summer rain

that takes you back to yourself.

What is the word for coming home so completely,

for coming because the texture and shape

of a tree for coming because the wind smelled just so?


the lake unthreads me

each tube and artery

combed free.

last inhale

pulls the night blue

within, makes this hue

my heart. i’ve lived my whole

life with one bloodbeat

every time i ran

every time i loved

every time i swallowed wine

the same drum, reverberation

that rolls on, gong flush with feeling.

when the lake comes in

my lungs furl wings

swooshing nocturnal light

this Luna moth

i always had in me,

this symmetry.


discordant I

on the morning you texted

shut my kitchen door on the baby’s wails

two steps and I’m garden, I’m maiden

with a basket

for a lonely prince I love / a purpose

that makes me fairylike, nipping

the right herbs / the right flowers I bird my fingers through purple


sewing the magics together, all I know how,

just a sprig

these stars for you.


My face was gone

at the old church of the forest,

words like I

bowed into living script,

ink waving through water.

Each night I bedded down

in the blossoming shells of houses

and felt by stomach, the tangle of roots

supporting everything in sight.

Weave me in, never again could I shake

the nighttime, every dream

was the lake in full voice

sometimes singing, sometimes

tearing my life like a cattail

apart, seedfibers flying

in polar wind. How easy it was

in the end to shred me,

one stroke

in the right direction.

When I cease to be alone

I don’t ask where I am,

I attach my mouth

to the stone basin, a leech

to cling and suck

every salt, every mineral—

the force of my thirst pulls blood from the rock.


to Jenny and Nathan

my love poem to you is my love poem to all i

love. the steam twirling up from coffee

in the cold light, the merlot bloom of night flowers,

the laughing chord in the voice of a friend

your glance

the sudden, clear rain

in my heart. when i look at you i see the cabin for my heart.

the long days of summer melting into our skin, salty chips

and bitter tang in the beer by a cold lake. our angers

and our sadnesses braiding together

a cord we climb

a chord we strike on the piano to bring the thunder

move us into each other.

when i hold you i smell the winter in your skin

and it’s the smell i love.

when i love you i love even January, when

it’s dark and then darker, gray and then grayer,

when it frays our minds into tatters

we quilt that blanket together. when you leave me

peonies bloom in my hands

still warm from the sun of you. when you return

the sap heats.

tap into me, take syrup. for you i’m maple, for you

i’m the holy amber of earth. when we walk together

and the friends are laughing and the city

is buzzing and the sky whirls like a heaven

we’ll never catch, catch my hand.


Music buried in the wind, I draw it out

thread the needle through me

till my vellus hair rises,


Furl the landscape

in my thick ears, uncotton

just unstuff, let fly the cloudcover

clarify me like butter,

lick up my fatty salts.

You can have me,

if you can map that pitch

through my arteries, if you are

anything in lichen, one taste

of resin and I’m on my knees

over the burly roots

a tuning fork in my sternum, ambering.


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