Amie Whittemore

Ode to Everything, Saunders Trail Attempt


When I was younger / I wrote this poem many times and don’t know / where I was going with it.

—Lucia Perillo, “Juarez”


My ex-Mormon friend spent her first divorced summer

in Morocco tonguing new hangovers

while I’m sweating mine out in Central Virginia

draped in mosquitoes.

Men draped her in scarves, their hands parentheticals

around her breasts. Nothing like side boob

in the morning to grease the wheels, fortify the appetite.

I haven’t seen that kind of action

since—well, I’m too old to say but young enough

to remember those women I once touched

as I walk along Saunders Trail, chaste as a fart,

noting English ivy choking the elms, oaks,

and walnuts: I’m gathering material for an Ode to Everything.

Here’s leaves raking wind.

Here’s ocean clamoring inside them.

Here’s where I expel self-pity

and trade a lecherous proclivity for identifying

pawpaw, hemlock, and tulip poplar.

If I were smarter and funnier,

I’d add white rats, pirouettes, ripe plums

a hand dusting lead from Flint, Michigan’s pipes

like dandruff from shoulders.

Can we agree children should suffer

only earaches and mild anxiety?

Let’s consult on how best to represent

their interests through a list

of jump ropes, right swipes, plum pies,

pumpkins carved into gangrenous skulls.

Let’s exchange emojis, redacted here

to honor the ode’s allegiance to the alphabet.

Then I’ll snap you a video of a pawpaw,

fat and innocent as a baby’s thigh,

and hate myself a little for using Snapchat.

After pocketing a few pawpaws, which taste

of citrus and beer, from Thomas Jefferson’s land

I’ll compose an ode to the largest indigenous fruit

in North America. Sorry, plums:

the pawpaw’s snapped my heart (get it?!)

much like poison ivy butters skin.

I’ve never learned its shape (like mittens),

its rule of three (like witches), its ruddy

progress irritating as love can be—

I know I should get on with it.

The trail’s got another mile before dropping me

by the pond where amphibian lust ping-pongs.

On it I’ll collect silence, a cure for lead poisoning,

a more confident stride, a sideways glance

at the runner passing me, her body glazed

in sweat, an untied shoelace scribbling Jefferson’s signature.

I’ll offer to tie it when we both pause

beside the pond where I’ll expound

on invented facts about frog physiology,

tell her a joke: a divorced Mormon,

a poet, and Thomas Jefferson walk into a bar.

You can imagine the rest.


Amie Whittemore is the author of the poetry collection Glass Harvest (Autumn House Press). Her poems have won multiple awards, including a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and her poems and prose have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Nashville Review, Smartish Pace, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is the Reviews Editor for Southern Indiana Review and teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University.


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