The Trees

Emily Kendal Frey

Men withering on mom stalksWomen choking down dad dustSmall dogs coughing up divorceMom mouths dripping grape son juiceAncient feast of engorged familial goodwillBlood pulsing within guilt woundsBroken turkey neck bone jabs sisterGrieving relative shits sad pelletsBulbous mold blooms on spare room dreamsSon with dad gash spewing hourlyDad with son guilt gnashing gin iceThe Father ProblemThe Father Problem on salePlastic sheath of parent absence sprayed on all travelersBraided ex-girlfriend-new-girlfriend boredomMoms brandishing sore heart swordsDaughters wearing chains of mom hateThe weak turkey eye of warring womenApathetic masturbatory check-in at overpriced restaurantJust give us some breadFamily bisque stuck to the life potMoms not sleeping, no one mothering themThe ghosts of nightgowns pastAsleep in a 100-year-old schoolhouseThe Father Problem on the lawnSiblings dissociated except for foodA bowl of cheese makes a child less lonelyThe Father Problem on televisionMoms losing out to the internetAunt-grandmothers lining their basements with boozeSummer spurting nature into the city woundIn the woods with a god-star between your legsFriction between forces keeps us alivePain gets us awakeAvoiding the ditch of childless uncleSwerving next to drunk uncleOcean time with faded familyKids in bed so the adults can die togetherDie loud enough for the youth to know betterWe want you a little too hot in the musty bedWe want you a hard grateful on your snack crustBring me a plate for the burger bloodWe reserve rights in your future pastureBrothers with zinnia eyesSisters inside the vague tetris of WednesdayGrandfather a witness to egg crumbleA soft mouth, a cold dollarWatery eyes for your girlfriendWitness to what fieldA daughter for a father free fallA person to mother themselves on a manA man to daughter themselves on a fatherI do not open my day inside genderThe named oppression of namingThe windows open to genderless treesTo be told who you are as named and therefore not a part of natureLove floating like a teenager in a bubble bathSymbols of love held as signs of protestDreaming your gender into your pantsExcising the binary in sleep next to the belovedIn the morning to wake, not named, and therefore freeTo be human or merely humane and see a treeAunts gathered under rum cloudsGrandmother fanned in a firewood crownA brother raking leaves on his ritualThe neighborhood a carcass of the takenThe neighborhood sprayed and dried and caked in colonialismThe city a thimble catching schemesThe names of treesThe beating sap that flows through and under a treeTeachers mashing their gender through the language sieveTeachers learning about treesYou, by your living, are standing on someone elseYou wake up and break the dream ceilingSpider flattened to your cheekStepdad in a pancake maskStepmom's shirt open to show breastMarking territory makes a familyI woke inside a burning treeWhere is my motherWhere is waterA daughter to water the fatherMy man heart standingA fire bowling down a mountainNameless, the trees

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In addition to Lovability (Fonograf Editions, 2021), Emily Kendal Frey is the author of The Grief Performance (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Sorrow Arrow (Octopus Books, 2014), winner of the 2015 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. She is a teacher and therapist and lives in Portland, Oregon.

The follow-up to her 2014 collection Sorrow Arrow (winner of the 2015 Oregon Book Award for Poetry), Emily Kendal Frey’s volume Lovability is a dialogue of social and interpersonal dynamics, as well as an exploration of the feelings of freedom and longing they produce. “Scourged the river bottom for my lost self”— she writes in the collection’s final poem, “I Became Less Acceptable to Those in Power”— “Brought them up/ Touched their face/ The armor/ Split and leaking light.” A professional counselor and teacher, Frey’s work in Lovability uses direct, image-driven poems to name the world we are a part of, to listen in.

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