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To the Saint of Gerstle Park

A Poem

Published on:
December 10, 2019
Read time:
1 min.
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That day, I take a leaf of yours, flame

red—seal it in a book, and place

it in my pack. All afternoon, I feel it burn

a hole through the binding, taste crisp

edges of dirt and sap.


In your boughs, your whispered prayers

surely reach God’s ears.


My ribs brick into a forge, lungs for bellows

fan the leaf song, small like swollen

end of cherry iron. Warble step

by half step—my soot-lined spine grows

warm, smells of hickory kindling stacked.


Blocks from your shelter, the wind charges 

and snuffs the notes, charred ribs black

into earth—the singed body holds

so thinly. Tongue is smoldering

old ashes in the mouth.


In your boughs, your whispered prayers

surely reach God’s ears.


Back among your roots, my knees now bleed

on muddied concrete—I lost

all leaves—of course I scour

too low, looking for a sign—green

shoot to kiss


Pray for us, that we may have

flaming hands like yours.

Calleja Smiley
Calleja Smiley grew up in Michigan, and has since made her way to New York City via North Carolina, Mississsippi, Texas, and California. She earned a BFA in Dance from LINES Ballet/Dominican University, during which time she began to explore the intersection between creating poems on a page and on a stage with moving bodies. She is a dancer, movement instructor, and writer who thrives on the energy of the city, although her soul is always with the trees.

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