J.R. Tappenden

Tree for the Forest


Century Tree, St. Louis, MO

[Not water but memories of water] nested concentric,
one to another, accumulated. History is

both the quick injury that broke a young limb and the seasons
[of water/ no water] that shroud it. No one alive remembers

the sapling but its pattern persists; none think of Missouri as three-fifths
an honorable state, yet it’s recorded deep in our tree(s):

the stoutest branch just out of reach still has some-
thing of a notch on top, [water/no water] rippling scars

uneven where rope sheared the bark, the forest
themed full of such singular marks. Don’t be fooled by the light

in the spring leaves; their color will be red again
soon, [when water is/ not water].




The sharp angle of an elbow in feathers
against bright, cold blue
can only be a spirit, unappeased
and peregrine, widely ranged already
but keeping her wings fully fingered,
to know the particles of coal ash
and woodsmoke escaped from electric
plants and hearthstones, to know
the crystals of ice born around them,
a dirty snow, all of it a dissipation
to be ridden as it is, the sun
a cold light, the moon dissolving
in it, blue craters of day
brushed by the feathers of her
eyelashes, the idea of an eye
dusting the moon, motes disturbed
and re-silted in a growing
delta, a new country.

(italics from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets)

Jen Tappenden is the founding editor of Architrave Press. She earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Missouri – St. Louis where she also served as the university’s first Poet Laureate. Her poems have appeared in The Baltimore ReviewFlywayCompose and elsewhere. Jen is poetry editor for december magazine, an organizer of both the St. Louis Small Press Expo and UMSL’s Natural Bridge Debut Writers Series as well as an all-out-fool for strawberry ice cream. Her chapbook, Independent City, is forthcoming from Wells College Press  where she will also be a visiting writer to coincide with its release in the Fall of 2016. More at jrtappenden.com.

… return to Issue 8.3 Table of Contents.