Tree of life

i can hear the whispers from the mud pockets still,

salamander and sylph-fire crackling into the night:

i am leaving now, my love

off in search of salt and sea

of ocean, i think—my heart

i’m going to drown

there is no wisdom, 

there are no good choices,

a half-mumbled affectation becomes a dagger pressed

begging intimacy, playful bites beneath silken sheets

the gift of eternal love: a scattered feast

this is not a romance, but a warning gently told—

like the moss that creeps over angel wings

or a prayer card pressed into trembling fingers

  1. winter

guilt cradles us 

grief holds us

some nights, you are the vulture i chased away:

clinging and shaking and tearing bits of yourself,

digging your fingertips deep into the plush of my skin,

embarrassed at the bruises in the early morning light

you fold away parts of yourself, keep to your side of the bed, 

hope that i don’t notice the hesitancy of your lips,

tasting for the thrill of unknown—

the flutter of a pulse in ecstasy

some nights, you are the crow who calls the wild roses home:

content to watch, but easily startled to flight

i’ve seen you clip your own wings, claim it’s necessary—

that it’s only right since i brought you in

and made it a point to keep you

still, darling, 

i felt your erratic heartbeat, 

pried the arrow shaft from your rib

even i search for alternate meanings in the term debridement 

  1. descent 

some nights, i still dream of galax fields,

of nightgowns, chamomile

some nights, i yearn to be a mourning dove,

a grackle, a catbird, a finch—

a diminutive thing, still perched at your bedside

some nights, i am little more than a cormorant plummeting

over and over into empty waters

most nights, i lay on the shore with strangers

and pretend to like their colada sweat,

their mimosa eyes—the way they beg,

their taste

i pretend to drown

i pretend i am the beach at midnight 

i pretend to be the wave crashing against the sea wall

i pretend every dive bar lyric drifting from the dock is relatable

i pretend i belong here where everyone is summer, 

where everyone is a neon glow,

where everyone is pink and purple

where everyone is a body shimmering under latex

if i close my eyes, every body is yours

i tell the moon i love her

i pretend it’s actually you

  1. spring

i watched the crows build their nest

with fishing line, with jute—

watched them weave grass,

cozy among the thorns

i heard the sway of porch chimes,

left the garden tub to overflow,

laid in bed until the sheets were just as damp

i thought of you today, 

knocked an arrow,

took aim


As I don’t have any playing cards, I decided to pull cards from two decks to lay out the basis of the plot and details, Loaf Tarot and Conjure Cards. The title of the poem would come from one card pulled from my Making Magick manifestation deck. 

Each card was “intuitively pulled” while the deck was shuffled–basically whatever cards popped out during the shuffle.

Once I had all of the cards, I flipped the manifestation card for the title.

After, I flipped the Loaf Tarot over for a sense of what the plot should be.

Ignoring the traditional meanings of swords and aces for a moment, I immediately began to focus on the seasonal/natural aspects of each card. The four of swords is reminiscent of winter and the ace of wands, spring. The five of swords focuses on water, so I decided that the poem would be told over the course of three seasons: winter, summer, and the following spring.

After, I flipped the Conjure Cards for little details.

These cards are based off of fortune telling as it’s done in the Appalachian Mountains, 

so I compared the card meanings in the booklet with this deck with those on the Voidspace website. I jotted all of the details down along with the traditional meanings for the tarot cards.

From there, I looked at imagery, There are a lot of birds and flowers present as well as a lot of blue and a lot of pink. As the manifestation card mentions wisdom and choices, I thought it might be interesting to create a poem where the story develops through the conflict of choices as told by two speakers (one human, one decidedly not) both claiming to love each other. The poem alternates between perspectives of the first speaker (opening stanza, winter, spring) and the second (italics of the opening stanza, descent). 

Jessica Swanson (she/her) lives somewhere along Florida’s Nature Coast. She has had work published with Worm Moon ArchiveHealthline Zine, and engendered.  She has a fondness for cats, cheese, and fancy tea leaves. Find her on Instagram at everystupidstar and Twitter at Cooljazsheepie.