Cheryl Pearson

Maple

Soft with rot, the toppled maple
bridges the gap between forest

and copse. Her streaming roots
are fixed in air, the way a river’s flow

is fixed by cold in winter. Here and there,
a mushroom blots her trunk; a vixen

has left her stink around the base.
I take your mittened hand, and show you

how to trace the rings to tell her age –
two centuries, at least; forty times

your tender years. Your eyes are wide
as moons. I tell you owls once roomed

in her branches, and you hoot, the way
your teacher taught you when you made

the bird from paper plates and scraps
of felt. My heart is ringed with love of you,

my girl, my miracle. I’d count the loops,
but they are uncountable – more rings

than there are stars in the sky,
more rings than in a world of maples.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of Oysterlight (Pindrop Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, The High Window, Poetry NorthWest, and Frontier. She has won the Torbay Open Poetry Competition and the Bedford International Writing Competiton, and been shortlisted for the Keats Shelley Prize. She was recently Commended in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry & Medicine. Her short story, “The Fishwife”, was commended in the Costa Short Story Awards, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England.