The Elm, by Laura Madeline Wiseman

The elm makes a dark companion.
Dear rot. Dear disease.

Groping like a monster, it towers
along the bike path, hurtling limbs
in fall storm. Dear jagged edge.

Dear scarred hole.

Why do the cyclists choke?
White throated tunnel to pass through—ahhh
—do they cringe at shadows?

Their tires spray crushed limestone
to the ditch of roots and fallen leaves.
Dear wrinkled hide.

Arms bending back, the elm grows for decades
like a cancer, people touching it, coupling
beneath it, children playing ball.

It is best not to name it.
Dear nervous system. Dear cells.

When the cyclists turn a corner, it fades
into the distance, a smudge behind them.

When silence swallows their tires
the tree stands tall, growing.


Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the book Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) and the letterpress book Unclose the Door (Gold Quoin Press, 2012). She is also the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Her writings have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Feminist Studies. She has received honors from the Academy of American Poets and Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner, and the Wurlitzer Foundation. Her website is located at


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