Noemi Maxwell

About the Poet

I lived in a house under maples and ginkos. The property was bordered on the back by a narrow belt of cool woods and a river. Onion grass grew in sporadic tufts along the edges of organized gardens. I yanked it by the hair and brought the fragrant clusters of soil-clotted eggs to my nose. Near the street grew a sassafrass bush. Its maroon petals had the texture of suede and I rubbed them along my upper lip. Flowering dogwood bloomed white outside the second floor windows. There were cedar and spruce and some piney bushes with luminous red berries. Inside the bright skins a translucent jelly quivered. I squished handfulls of these berries to make soap. From the frame of the grape arbor with its spadey leaves a set of hand swings hung just low enough for me to reach if I jumped. The wood dowels pinched and dug my palms. I swung under bitter green I swung in the liquor of sweet purple. A rickety tree house perched in the powdery branches of the old apple tree. Purple flowers and long velvety pods littered the floor of the wisteria arbor where perfect shells of cicada curled in the sparse moss like miniature armadillos. Harvestmen laced whole gardens of ferns, dandelions studded the lawns of fragrant grass. There were lillies of the valley, crocuses, fireflies, ivy and mint for tea or for power. Hummingbirds drank from the long necked blooms, bees with sacks of pollen on their legs ferried between wisteria and the dense white flowers of the bush I dream of. I touched the coats of the bees. The soil was alluvial and dark. Salamanders and wood lice lived under rocks. Wood lice poured from the rocks and rolled into balls under my fingers. They poured from the rotting stump of the tree where mushrooms sprouted dimly, their vents like the convolutions of a vegetal brain. Under the light by the back screen door, opposums and racoons foraged pushing and tipping the tin plates. The whole town was fragrant and moist. Commuter trains hooted and a deep fog horn blew. Church bells rang. My sister took me to the woods. We drank from the river, the water sparkling over variegated stones, snakes in the cool hollows.

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