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Wren Tuatha

Photo by  Joanna Kosinska  on  Unsplash

The business man will sign his name
a certain number of times in his long,
dry-cleaned life. $500 pens in his breast
pocket. How many signatures?
Others take his measure. 

Manzanita branches painted fire engine red, 
grow indecisively, split and spread like antlers. 
A deer has nicked toothmarks in rows up the trunk, 
marking days like a prisoner.

He is wealthy in pens. And so, memo
after autograph after executive order, he signs. 
Immigrants and Chief of Staff, gone. With each white paper, 
lives turn like branches reaching for escape. True stories end—
refugee children, vets and cancer patients. Endangered species, 
flung from a rigged casino roulette wheel.

I’m entranced by how dropping pine needles
catch on manzanita branches, hanging
like wisps of child’s hair below the teal shell leaves
and little apples. Like blonde fringe on a jacket
before repeated washings. Like strange fruit I can’t unsee.

The business man’s body count,
another unknown number, tethered to the whip lines
and fang letters in the signature of a man
in a clean room, commanding a pen, 
cameras chirping, never catching
the countdowns in progress. 

The deer nibbles the manzanita bark
every day she passes this way, never girdling
the trunk, browsing, enough for all. Her marking
stops the day the mountain lion finds
her upwind. 

Wren Tuatha is editor of Califragile. Her poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Pirene’s Fountain, Lavender Review, and others. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.