I tread the forest floor, walk soft
on soil blanketed with particles of pine skin,
pieces of brown and green hair brushed away
by a careful wind.
This is a nursery.
I absorb the dark heat of the wooden cradle,
the humid chest of the earth rocking me back and forth.
I am inside, enveloped in a body pregnant with seasonal lust,
with reproduced seeds, with a growing hearth that burns
the way human blood does and bleeds the way water oaks do.
The warmth is always rising.
I see a break ahead, a slight opening in the swaying canopy,
the place where trees lace their stick fingers and hold hands
like non-violent protesters resisting the fight, like gentle elephants
protecting their calves, shielding their children from the fire of the sun.
Can you feel the light?
I am drawn to the middle, the brightest hole in the line of defense
and think, Maybe I can fit in. I step up and stretch
my trunk, raise my branches, extend my roots:
I am a tree in my own right.
From a distance, I am a misshapen stump, a shadow
against radiance, an incandescent star reversed
to black on a negative image.
My memory is a broken camera.
The contrast is striking, colors pure and sensitive
to invisible waves weaving through tendrils, tossing me awake.
I feel a snap, a release of chemicals in my exposed body
and begin to shift alongside pouring light.
I am reborn.
Brought forth by sheer illumination that shakes shells
until they fall open to reveal the sprout of life, until they let growth happen,
until their struggle finally unfurls leaves, damp and looking for beckoning rays.
The sun keeps its promises.
Rachel L. McMullen is a teacher, freelance writer, editor, and poet. Her work can be found in Oracle Fine Arts Review, Three Line Poetry, Unbroken, and elsewhere. She is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Random Sample Review.