Poetry Issue #56

An Untouched Forest

In our few years together, I never told you this— 
I used to sneak a blanket to the woods,
apostrophe myself against an elm
till dark. I learned to disappear in branches,
quiet as the moss. Love, I never told you—
I name every tree I touch. Still find myself
curled and curving into trunks. I never told you
of the oak’s heart beating with my own—
your envy would have choked it. I grew a secret 
orchard on the hill, tended mulberries
like almost-children, friends you never met. 
Now I try to tell you and a vine creeps up 
my throat. It covers everything I touch. 
An axe in your belt, we joked
you were a lumberjack. Of course 
I kept you from the pines. In those few years
together, love, I never took you to the forest.
I was afraid you’d catch me praying.

Dialogue between the Lesbian’s Body and Nebraska

Now, when I remember you:
a girl kneads loam
into her best friend’s palm.
                                      Here, the caterpillars gorge themselves on violets.
                                      Do you remember them, 
                                      coiled tight around your fingers?
Soil pressed into her love line,
the secret fragile as cicada wings
and twice as loud.
                                      The irids, too—remember them?
                                      How they live for half a day, 
                                      each bloom a little death?
How we killed it, 
stopped its chirping with our heels.
How, when it sang its dying song,
even the bluestem waved in mourning.
                                      Dew curls the lashes of the grama.
                                      Look—when morning hits the pasture,
                                      can’t you see it weeping?
On the last night,
we slept as if inside catalpa.
The pod split open, 
seeds cast into dirt.
                                      When you left, the horses stamped the dust for weeks.
                                      Could you hear them? 
                                      Can you hear them still?


Silence, the horse I rode in on—
fast, with its blood-muscled heart, 
thundering hooves. The canyon 
we leap, too, is Silence—that steep 
chasm of the unsayable. I measure 
the horse in hands over a mouth. 
She is fifteen silences tall. 
When I feed her she refuses
to eat, withering. She neighs and
no one is around to hear her.
Omission, that blind Silence
in front of her face. The canyon 
crumbles, a Silence of rocks
down a quieting hole 
I tug Silence’s withers, she tosses
her wordless mane. Listen to me. 
I am trying to tell you. 
Can’t you see my mouth moving?
Can’t you see my horse?


—and Nebraska,
once my favorite flower 
wilts underfoot.
Omaha weeps like a cut
stem. I come home 
and my bed is a pile of dirt.
The chopped ends of her hair 
stuffed like dead grass 
in my pillowcase. I have grown
a whole garden from this
perennial decay. My poems 
the hole she crawls out of
like this pen is a goddamn 
shovel. All I ever do is dig.
By Mary Beth Becker-Lauth

Mary Beth Becker-Lauth is an emerging poet from Nebraska. She currently lives with her wife in Saint Paul, Minnesota and works in violence prevention. She is a Master Naturalist. She lives on occupied Dakota land.