By: Emry Trantham
I once read that tall, forked trees had all been nibbled
upon by a porcupine while still tender green. For years
I sang that gospel truth—each pronged tree
I climbed had early-on been split by the teeth of the quilled
pig: a fact. I did not dream another herbivore, never mind
that there is no porcupine in Western North Carolina.
Rabbit, deer, groundhog, squirrel—all more probable
culprits. And who knows if that was even true, that a tree
divides from youthful damage, from a mammalian catalyst
with a yen for birch. A tree might split for any because—
a need for the west and a hope for the east. To offer a child
a place to rest, or to answer the pull of the moon. A left-
leaning branch might strike out on her own, and a trunk
may try a question. Perhaps two sisters drew a line of light
between their sides, never to be crossed. But really, what can
I know of split oaks and splayed branches? How can I
conjecture on why the maple maps two paths?
Each split tree I rest beneath casts its shadow quilled.
Emry Trantham is an English teacher in Western North Carolina, where she is raising three daughters and writing poems. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, Noble Gas Qtrly, Cider Press Review, Cold Mountain Review, and others. She was also a 2019 Gilbert-Chappell Emerging Poet.