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Laura Madeline Wiseman

July 22, 2013

Death Row


Sometimes, in the spring humidity, there’s a rustling,
a small susurration and it’s them, a whiffle

as breath moves between them way up there.
Or in the fall when it hasn’t rained and we hear

a ticking, like the flicker of ribbons
tied to an oscillating fan and think it’s a party

for a birthday girl, but it’s them, another way
they seek our attention without clear intention.

Now, the shush-shush of kids walking
in the street in their red-gold offering, the whoosh

of wind between the last full canopy,
and as the storm approaches, the whine

of branches straining in the gusts—
these are their words, tussled and calling.

When you wrap your arms around me,
the power flickers, and the trees gutter

like candles as what pushes and pulls at them, the thing
we cannot really see, and limbs crack and drop

their magnificent weight to the ground,
that is their prison bars rattling

and hands reaching out to grasp at nothing. I know this.
I have seen trunks twisted against reason

on mountains. I have touched those bent bodies
and unable to change the direction of time

I have whispered into the crook of their neck
the small nothings.



American Walnuts


Consider the way they proliferate in ditches,
along bike path, edge of forest, abandoned lines,

the way their leaves fan the shuttered shadows
of overgrowth, oscillating their full parasols,

their saw-toothed leaflets muffling the sounds,
whatever we whisper in these desolate places—

greenish flowers, yellow fall leaves, broad
and lanced—the way they were once abundant

but prized as material for furniture, gunstock,
and veneer, coveted as native wood and stolen,

they way their hard green husks tumble
to the ground and are pried open by squirrels

and forgers consuming their offering
in the way we do not gather what grows

in land soaked in creosote—railroad tie, telephone pole,
bridge strut—the way apples and tomatoes die

near their mature presence, their fruit
edible and sweet in irregular chambers,

the way we buy them prepackaged in plastic,
unable to trust our green fields.




Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English and creative writing. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) and Unclose the Door (Gold Quoin Press, 2012). She is also the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her writings have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Feminist Studies. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner, and grants from the Center for the Great Plains Studies and the Wurlitzer Foundation.

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