their bony fingers splayed,
sharp nails scratching my legs,
begging for my green.
I look away, ascending towards the blue.
Descent into the brambles would bring consumption,
swirled in pain and fear, struggle and immobility.
In the sediment, souls slide softly, teasing:
the fur of a fox, feathers of a flicker, brush of a butterfly wing.
I stoop to acknowledge them and am reminded why I climb.
I want to rake through the wreckage,
clutching beauty to my core, lifting, liberating.
If only I could carry it up with me where we all could see.
So many years I struggled to ascend, cautiously carrying elements I absorbed.
The toxic things kept thriving, thickening, leeching nutrients.
I stretched onward towards the sun for sustenance,
but with the light came isolation.
Maybe this is why most won’t strive for this station, or stay.
They prefer thickets of memories, dark and deep –
the comfort of commonality.
I’ve brushed by many on this ascent, touching, briefly.
Leaves, needles, bark: memories of me have trickled down.
Some feed off them.
Some seek shelter under them.
Some stay shrouded for many seasons.
Expressways etch my trunk, allowing infection to infiltrate.
Layer by layer, my core is rotting, porous and brittle.
One day I will topple into the thickets.
They will swallow me, swinging open a doorway to the sun.
Curious souls who watched me will similarly struggle to rise.
Poem by Tracy Ahrens
Tracy Ahrens of Illinois has been a journalist and editor for newspapers, magazines and websites for over 25 years. She is also an artist and author of eight books, including four children’s books. As of 2020, Tracy had won 66 writing awards statewide, locally and nationally. Tracy has published two books of poetry through Finishing Line Press titled “Nature will heal” (2012) and “I am” (2017). Her poetry has appeared in various literary magazines across the country. Her poetry has appeared before in Tiny Seed.