Eastern Hellbender Cryptobranchus allegeniensis photo: Bronx Zoo
“To Whom and//or what do you give your allegiance?”
“How Does Such Allegiance impact your sense of self and thus your writing?”
Aham, my allegiance is to the trout, the stars, the folded cups of mountain laurel, pale pink centered.
“How is your writing a form of peyote?”
“How is your writing medicine to bring back to your community?”
“Take these 15 minutes of peyote time.”
Is my allegiance really to the shovel?
I bought such a beautiful one—German-made, expensive,
not from Home Depot.
I sparkled over its heaviness, its “heirloom” quality—
my five year old asked if it was his and I said “sometime.”
I hacked through 4—or, really 2 square feet of crabgrass and
cursed the roots, cried about deforestation of my place,
which isn’t really my place,
which doesn’t feel like my place,
without any living trees,
and hoped the cherry tomatoes would volunteer again,
and glared, sweaty, from my kitchen over a glass of cider.
This is work for machines.
And as I write this I think, “no.
I will take the shovel to the decorative parts of the land and
put in my peas and my radishes where the crabgrass
has not yet taken over.”
I will water the pear trees and make offerings to the
one great oak left—
I will tie it round with ribbons and flags
and people zooming by with confederate plates might wonder—
“what the fuck is that little girl doing, dressing up a tree?”
and will I have the bravery to make shrines?
Will I have the peace in my heart to walk with questions to the native peoples and request introductions to places.
I need an invitation, a calling card.
And the little, pointing, laughing, curious, drunken, activated little spirits say:
Stop with all that lamentation. You have had your introductions,
you have made the spaces and the fires in your heart and the
mountains see you, darling,
and the rivers love you,
and the fishes and the dreams request your
So turn your eyes TOWARD, instead of AWAY FROM.
Turn them into eggs, turn them into bellies, turn them into
honey and holes.
Listen with your spots, with your salamanders.
Speak with your stones and your hands and your bloody heart and your toothiness and your
radiant eyes. Speak little one, speak young one, speak.
Give your heart fully to the things you love
without fear that it will be removed from your body—
for it does not reside there anyway.
Remember the green, the smell, the water full of toes and
I give my allegiance to the hellbenders and their
ugly, magnificent kin,
to their riffles and ruffles and
nose holes and hiding places,
I burn pyres for their deaths and for their lives.
I give my love and my honor and whatever I have—
from a writing prompt at Asheville Wordfest: Geopoetics
session with Todd Levasseur: Writing Through Collapse