We step into the forest even though we know it is going to storm.
Crunch of trail gravel beneath our shoes. In my life there are
so few people who make me feel real. Not real like tangible but
real like always and infinite. You tell me about all the plants
of the forest. Point to wild violets and tulips. You teach me that so much
is edible. Forsythia. Then, the little umbrella hands of the Mayapple.
We talk about wants and fears. About living like hag stones.
You tell me you love most the plants that are poisonous until
just the right moment. The Mayapple is like this. You must wait
for it to ripen. I wonder if love is like this. Not only sweet
always arrives at just the right moment. We harvest skunk cabbage.
Notice rain begin to make polka-dots on the forest floor. We shuffle
as fast as we can. Undoing the path, we walked. You say, “If I had
an umbrella, I would hold it for us.” You are teaching me how
I want to be cared for. I want more time and less. I do not
trust myself to eat Mayapples. I know I’m always too eager.
In the parking lot we are soaked from the rain. We talk about
demisexuality and you say, “I am always falling in love with my friends.”
I say, “Me too” and I wonder if everything is wrong with me
or nothing and if this is a Mayapple and if it is, when and how
it will be ripe. I do not say what I want to say. Instead, we drive home
through grey clouds and patches of light.
Editor’s Statement (from Poetry Editor Jonah Meyer):
This tender poem is packed with so many magnificent turns of phrase, and deep (nearly tangible, edible) imagery: the “little umbrella hands” of the fruit, some plants as “poisonous until / just the right moment,” the polka-dotted patterns created by rain on the forest floor, the speaker’s desire for both “more time and less,” the quiet drive home through “grey clouds and patches of light.” Perhaps of greatest significance is the unspoken, intoxicatingly potent metaphor of the mayapple fruit’s ripening vis-à-vis the yet-to-be-established timing of these two human souls unearthing love.
I wrote a series of poems while I was falling in love with my partner. I would come home after we’d walk in the woods together and parse through the moments we shared. The mayapple stood out to me so much because the brevity of the fruit’s ability to be eaten felt like a parallel for where we both were in our lives, not able to be together. When I approach an image or a symbol I like to unravel it in layers and so I first wrote about the mayapple and then about our walk and then sewed those two scenes together.