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
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,
ASTERS FOR AEGOR
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,
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
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.