Laura Madeline Wiseman – Three Poems




What They Do with Our Nuts

aesculus galbra

Stuff them their mouths like suicidal squirrels, then spook spiders.
Slide them like sluts inside lacey bras, cupping our nuts, thumbing.
Say, My dad used nuts like these to polish his change. Kept them

lined up outside the kitchen on doilies. Push our nuts by fistfuls
into their hip pockets to polish what’s empty. Can even one nut
usher in more? Or does the obscene bulge deflect swelling?

Take them out. Stare us down eye to eye. We’re dark as a walnut,
like a shotgun curve, the weight cocked in their shoulder. We mean
bucked. Try to envision the virgin use, pull it from lore to study.

Did husbandry occur? Turks brewed remedies for horse coughs.
Imagine our nuts fed to phlegmy breeds, hocking up mouthfuls.
Once cured, ridden hard to the fleshy quake of those mangers.

Open Field Guide to Trees. Finger us, then read, tolerant of city
conditions, used, to stupefy fish, and, slightly unpleasant odor
when crushed. Fantasize in the kitchen roasting and soaking,

licking the paste from the lance of the knife. Then lift us (warts,
spines, prickles) from basket. Peel back barbed jackets. Crack us
by stomp or wrench. Inside we’re creamy and verdant, all ashine.

After They Cut Down Our Elder Willow

salix alba

First, they find aspirin in the kitchen, cap open, foil O peeled,
cotton removed. They return it to the medicine cabinet, thinking
the cleaning woman left it by mistake. Then more appear—

an aspirin bottle nestles in couch pillows, a half dozen line the shelf
in the bathroom closet, one stands on the basement steps. More
appear in in drawers of summer dresses, in the shed behind the rakes,

and once, in military formation some march down the hallway.
They begin to collect them for the free table at work or recycle
the glass bottles, wondering where such things are even purchased.

Despite their efforts, more multiply—under the guest bed,
in the attic crawl space, inside the seedling pots. They fear slipping
on one, falling, and breaking a hip, and worry about the neighbors

suspecting a meth lab, hoarding, or dementia. When they couldn’t
sit down anywhere in the living room—dark circles under their eyes
and the wrong words spoken in our exhaustion—they shrug,

then say, Let’s take them. They’re good—heart, blood, and pain.
They swallow our medicine every few hours and within a few weeks
all of the bottles vanish. The following spring, a new sapling grows

where our elder had been. They can’t remember planting it,
but water, mulch, add annuals, and hope. Sometimes they trace
their fingers over what’s left of the permeant scars, almost like braille.

The Terrific, Demon-like Inhabitants of the Valley

morus alba

Some of us come with the forest like native fungus. Dead or undead,
what poison is unknown, but bells with omen over the hardpan,
rotted, disintegrating core and lopped off crown, pollenating no one.

Our leaves feed no desert tortoise, no silkworm factory, no bland fruit
for the vultures and birds, no hay fever’s itch. No longer an ornament
or shade, we still launch pollen into the air at half the speed of sound.

We need no care, ringed in cement barricades, a screened shade
for lizards and geckos, a permanent backyard totem of carved holes
that do not scare, honor some horned beast, or beckon kinder gods.

No drought, no summer of heat in the hundred-teens, no monsoon
or long gone prohibition against our kind will kill us. Our stoicism
lives on to offer applause to the windstorms, that seasonal ushering.


Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks, including the collaborative book of poetry and art, Leaves of Absence: An Illustrated Guide to Common Garden Affection (Red Dashboard, 2016) with artist Sally Deskins. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Flyway, Kudzu House, Canary, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. More at: