Ronnie's high in the white pine. Not the one
the wind messed up, twisting off the top that day
they all ran to the basement. The other one,
the taller one. Cathy cried about Snowball.
Dogs know what to do in a storm, their father said,
but Ronnie knew being chained to a tree
couldn't help. He's way higher than before.
He's brought an old garden book, the pictures
black-and-white. He likes to read the old-
fashioned names aloud, like an incantation: Moss
rose, spider flower. Snow-in-summer. His father
says he'll cut the damaged tree. Two years
and sap still bubbles from the jagged top. Not
yellow, not amber like he expected, but more
clear. It smells like turpentine. Imagine a wasp
getting its foot stuck: would it pull off
its own leg? Love-lies-bleeding. Squill.
His father's in the back yard, laying bricks
for a grill. Cathy's filling the big wheelbarrow
with water from the hose. His father rips a black-
and-yellow bag of concrete mix and dumps it in;
gray dust flies up. Once he covered his whole hand
with Elmer's glue, held still while it dried.
He wanted a kind of glove of himself. He couldn't
get his hand out: it fixed in place like a statue.
He had to slit the back and peel it off. Snail vine.
Cross vine. Sky vine. Things that climb. He knows
these by heart. Honeysuckle. Trumpet creeper. Boston ivy,
English ivy, Carolina jessamine. Some wrap around,
some put out sticky feet. Blackeyed Susan vine.
His father's yanking a hoe through the gray muck;
water slurps into the dry spots, turns them dark.
Clematis, morning glory. Ronnie holds out his arms.
Grape. Kudzu. Closes his eyes. Moonflower. Cover me.
Ron Mohring has had work published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Artful Dodge, Maize, Pool, and Southeast Review. His poetry chapbooks are Amateur Grief, The David Museum, and Beneficence; his full-length collection, Survivable World, won the 2003 Washington Prize and is expected to appear in 2004 from The Word Works Press. The recipient of the 2003 Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press, he teaches literature and creative writing at Bucknell University, where he is Senior Associate Editor of West Branch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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