by Annette M. Sisson

The magnolia’s thick, brown leaves
cover all—
grass, weeds, sunflowers, pansies—
stacking up
like dirty laundry in the front yard.
A nettling presence.
The ones not fallen, rusty
leather against
a bright blue sky, are soon
impervious to brooms,
stuck in rakes. Heedless of
our labors,
they half-bury the small
shoots we tend.

If its voluptuous blossoms
are spirit, incarnate
bodies of blooming breath, and the seeds
the life-force
of lung and heart, the pods are surely
the body, protective,
resilient, barbed. But the leaves,
neither body
nor blood nor breath, strangle our living,
piling on
the fact of death. The spectacle of
lustrous white
flowers, the size of a baby’s christening
gown, is no
compensation; it cannot
atone. The seed
pods, hard and sharp, cut
bare feet,
blood as crimson as the kernels
stowed inside.

Annette Sisson, “Magnolia” from A Casting Off. Copyright © 2019 by Annette Sisson. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of the author and Finishing Line Press,

Annette Sisson lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, dog, and a small flock of hens. She is Professor of English at Belmont University, where she teaches and mentors students. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, baking, hiking, supporting local theater, watching the birds at her feeders, reading, writing, and playing the piano. Her publications include Zone 3, Rockvale Review, The Nashville Review, and a poetry chapbook, entitled A Casting Off, published by Finishing Line Press (May 2019). She has poems forthcoming in Passager Magazine, The Blue Mountain Review, SPANK the CARP, and Hamilton Stone Review. She recently won The Porch Writers’ Collective’s spring 2019 poetry contest and was awarded honorable mention in Passager Magazine’s 2019 national poetry contest.

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