Daughter of the Osmanthus River
by Danelle Stamps

Walking in the woods,
the path I have always known,
my footing betrayed me.
I grabbed for balance,
my hands found a Honey Locust
and broke my fall.

The pain nearly stole my breath,
a two inch thorn pierced through flesh
landing against bone and tendon,
pulling out as I let go,
blood pouring from my palms,
a stigmata and betrayal.

In dry grass and stone of the path,
tears spilled into my hands,
down my shirt, mixing with the blood,
not clotting as I wrapped
my own shirt around the wounds,
plucking the quills and spikes left behind,
pain taking my body,
stealing my heartbeats,
with each pull, each thorn.

This is when I thought of you,
leaving debris in wounds
that can never hope to heal,
burying betrayal under my flesh,
working your way deep into my story.
The fairytale that haunts my days:
each thorn, opening
a wound that will never scar,
infection lingering,
digging with a pocket knife ,
the steel blade, wet with iron and blood,
slipping in the flow, pulsing with my own
salty brine.

Drowning in a coastless ocean,
the Midwest is a sea of fields,
poison grease fields of golden stalks,
hunters preying for salvation
with Columbines and harvesters,
late at night you hear them tearing the flesh
of the fields that could feed us.

My tears fall freely now
like Spring floods, hoping to wash
away the ammonia and wasteland
from the topsoil only to drive it deep
into rock and water,
trapping us at home
like rising tides on the sea wall.

What about me?
I am lost, hurt, missing my lover.
Thorns in my hands that will never
pluck, despite the effort of lions.
My flesh disregarding my will,
everytime my palm throbs.
I have named you Honey Locust.

I want to feel alive without you,
digging deep into this garden.
I want to thrive and grow
without growing my own thorns
to keep the other wanderers
from grabbing at my flesh.

Standing still, evening shadows,
alone in the woods.
I am running through the woods
turning once to look back
then turning to tree to escape
unwanted, heartbreak.

Copyright 2024 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.