After I dress Albert in his pjs
and settle him carefully into his twin bed,
he somehow struggles his way up,
sits in his wheelchair,
sets his weak legs into the foot plates,
and rolls out into the evening.
He calls it night-rolling
and when he returns the next morning,
I make eggs for him and don’t ask any questions.
I hear one morning about delimbed trees—
Owners walking out in the crisp morning
to discover their gorgeous oaks or dogwoods
missing all of their branches,
the trunks left bare and scarred.
The cops can’t file a report,
but they rule it as some sort of prank.
That evening, as I undo Albert’s shirt collar,
wood dust sticks to my fingers.
When I open the door in the morning,
he can barely hold his head up
and his left hand,
curled inward like a newborn
from his arthritis, bleeds.
As I pick wood splinters from his cuts,
What do you do all night?
I’m trying to eat my way to Heaven.
I let him rest through the day.
Two more neighbors file reports.
He sleeps for days after that.
When he wakes, the furrows in his olive skin
seem softer, his dark eyes clearer.
He tells me that an aged body needs bark.
Then he doesn’t wake up at all.
The night after he dies,
I dream a tree unzips its limbs
with a great shudder,
and one by one,
Albert eats the branches
and becomes young again.
Tara Mae Schultz is a second year MFA poetry candidate at the University of Memphis. She is also the senior poetry editor for the award winning literary journal, The Pinch. She has work published or forthcoming in Touchstone Literary Journal, Di Mezzo Il Mare, The Los Angeles Review, The Southern Women’s Review, and Connotation Press.