Issue > Poetry
Elizabeth Ai Powell

Elizabeth Ai Powell

Elizabeth A.I. Powell is the author of The Republic of Self, a New Issue First Book Prize winner selected by C.K. Williams. Her second book of poems, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances, won the 2015 Anhinga Robert Dana Prize selected by Maureen Seaton and was a Small Press Bestseller, being named a “Books We Love 2016” by The New Yorker. Her novel Concerning the Holy Ghost's Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues was published in 2019. Her work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology 2013, Ecotone, Electric Literature, Forklift, Ohio, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review,  Ploughshares,  Zocalo Public Square, and elsewhere. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Johnson State College. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Her website is

Shore Wood Hills, After Thirty Years

                                   For Chris

I have tried to listen. The trees whisper how alive.
How did you find me?

Once, thirty years ago, a tall oak thrashed your window,
looked in on us, so young, on the carpeted floor, conceiving
another and ourselves out of the moon
dappled oak shadow. All the lake's boulders
below us sang their greeny moss, great answers
in an aria of cells, rings, fungi into tree
root, vast networks they connect heaven to earth.

The oaks and pines and prairie once loved me
into a kind of extinction, a stripping away
like a bear pulls bark. It scared me
so I walled myself in. I keep crying
because I thought you meant nothing
to me then. That the world meant nothing.
My distress was the shrill, horrible sound
of buzz saw. How I wouldn't speak to you or let you
come with me to the clinic not far from right here.
I didn't want you to think you had to stay
just because our child sprouted in me.
Now look at you.

Child or no child the oak holds
that spirit from us, what's underneath
still connects us, a halo of roots, mycelium nets.
These trees arching their bodies
over us with their long discussions about time.
These trees moving toward the light,
which is also toward each other,
felled yet live again, bloom great bowls and blossoms.
How to be quiet enough to ask the canopy
above us like a tunnel over our stunned
middle age. I reach for the broken world. I reach
over to touch your arm, the long limb
of you. The oak calls like God through time:
I recall the girl I was and still am,
all thick with sap and leaf and hubris.
I arrived here, un-Daphned myself back to you.
I have walked their mazes, with my dog
to find the map of this world of zygote, oak, and root.
How did you find me?


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