“Song of Husks” by Jennifer Voyles

Today our black walnut opened its underside
to the shadowless light at noon. I never watched
it happen until now—the way the fleshy pale leaves,
like hands, flipped themselves over as if longing

for something to calm them, your presence
now that it’s gone. I’ve heard of plants bending
toward a window, desperate for food in the dark,
but this—with wind, each branch, a new rosary of leaves,

betrayed its body by turning. The leaves will settle
soon. I’m still in that day we pulled out maps of Ireland
and plotted tours of Cork—planned, with a picture,
to capture the same time on each side of St. Anne’s clock,

the Four-Faced Liar— the day we said that the land
wasn’t stationary: stolen and sold, broken, plates
crashing, we agreed everything changes with a whisper.
Erosion. We tried to stop it. Our tree, when we planted it,

was only nut—to give it a chance in the ground,
we stomped the green husks till they cracked, then
peeled back the hulls with our fingers. They stained
our hands for days. It’s that cracking, that constant rattle

of shell against the road, that echoes, an endless
refrain. And when the sound is beginning to fade,
I will press my hand against the bark to listen.

Jennifer Voyles lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she directs the Learning Commons at Laramie County Community College. A graduate of University of Maryland’s MFA program and 2014 Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park, she has worked on several literary journals, including Sakura Review and Third Coast. When she is not working, Jennifer climbs mountains and spends time outdoors with her family. www.jennifer-voyles.com

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