Madrona — Featured image is attributed to Peter Stevens and is used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).

POETRY: The Neck Verse

by Laura Da’


Madrona skin twists
to red ribbons 
along suburban flanks. 

Old scars only seem 
unforgettably garish 
until the fresh ones settle in.

Girdling cancers of black rot 
harry trunks,
hastened by the heat

of human traffic.
With age, this species
develops a desperate 

need for sunlight.
It takes time and agonizing
necessity to become gregarious

at the crown. A juvenile stand
hewn by the footpath is beaten
too bloody to metaphor,

green skinned and beyond all help.
Impossible to read, resistant 
to lyricism, consider 

the human riddle of the neck verse. 
Recitation of Psalm 51
was once considered

sufficient reason to spare
a certain class of soul 
from the noose.

Pre-contact trees, utterly
unique to the Pacific coast,
Madronas will cling, salt whipped

to ocean ledges for decades,
but transplant a west facing sapling
to an eastern bluff and there it ends.


Laura Da’ is a poet and teacher who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of Tributaries, American Book Award winner, and Instruments of the True Measure, Washington State Book Award winner. Da’ is Eastern Shawnee. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

📸 Featured image is attributed to Peter Stevens and is used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).

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