When the dead speak, we have to listen. They coach
this puffed up season, this fertile mantle.
They own our palest reflections,
which create their own dangers.
In the house of roots, they pass through small rooms
and balk at each threshold.
They perch alone among trees, like cold creatures—
curve & hunch, fur & bluster—
the over-hanging shadows that fold themselves
neatly into our beds.
Past the pane: the sky between the branches.
Blue leaves surprised by red flowers, yellow-budded
pinecones split by cicadas, a trunk netted by sliding weeds.
Their skin the winter sky between the branches.
In the cradle of evening, the cool, endless rocking,
the dead steal our wings. No time to learn to die.
Oh, but then—the moment just before, that last
lost calling—the body lets go its gentle grip.
Every branch bends and lifts—the great exhale.
We press our ears to the canopy.
“Understory” first appeared in Tab: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics
Colleen Coyne is the author of the chapbook Girls Mistaken for Ghosts (dancing girl press), and her work appears in DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, BOXCAR Poetry Review, Tupelo Quarterly, New Delta Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Massachusetts, where she is an assistant professor of English at Framingham State University and a book editor at Tinderbox Editions.
Mary Farmilant is a Chicago-based visual artist who works in photography, video, and sound. Her work looks at the ephemeral qualities of space and memory by examining objects and the spaces they occupy.