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Jennifer A. Sutherland

Jennifer A. Sutherland’s first book, Bullet Points, is forthcoming from River River books in 2023. Her work has recently appeared or will soon appear in Hopkins Review, Best New Poets, Denver Quarterly, I-70 Review, Appalachian Review, Parhelion and elsewhere. She is an attorney, a graduate of the MFA program at Hollins University and she lives in Baltimore on the unceded land of the Piscataway and Susquehannock people.

Ars Botanica

There was an old black locust tree where I grew up, with a thick
and gnarled trunk you couldn’t wrap your arms around. It oozed
a canal of slime and sap that smelled like beer, stale and sour-fruited,
like my mother’s breath by late at night. She crushed the cans and left
them scattered on the table, one of them allowed to stand so she could tip
her ashes in, spine squared up by the window, never looking out,
sucking in and then expelling plumes of blue-gray smoke and fine
particulate. A string of rosary beads fluoresced upon her wrist
like buckthorn berries and she liked to finger them while she remembered.
Something insidious sank in when the wood was young and spoiled
the gut too deep to weep it out. But nothing happened to me, the child,
nothing at all Gothic, because I would not probe the wound, no matter
how it reeked. How much more blessed is a child’s faith, formed
beneath concentric rings the senses construct daily, resolutely turning
toward illumination instead of what despoils. I think of my mother,
now, her concave mouth, her dust, the late-day sun caught
in her spiraled knots of hair, very rarely. I think of her almost never.
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