S. Whitaker

Johnny Appleseed is Alive and Well

He knows much: envelopes plump
with Chinese coins, a tin
case of seed, forgotten songs.
He will take your letters if you let him.
You will know his prints
for his heels jackplow earth,
leaving a textured seam, rows
to walk between.
Do not wait, the trail will overgrow,
follow his whistle.
Girls he will kiss
are looking for an excuse to leave.
They call it love.
If you ask them what he looks like
The answers are the same:
hands of skinny knots, smoke
circling trees like ribbon that has escaped its balloon.
His gift is simple. He moves
from one orchard
to the next. He is door.
He is a small thing.
The far away groan
of a tractor roaming the back roads.

Working for the Oracle*:
December, Leidesplein, Amsterdam

There is no choice but to become lost
in this stratosphere
my nerves tuned like a wine glass,
my lover's fingers rounding the rim…

Already the windows are busy
as wrapping paper,
for the sea has turned to ice.
In such temperatures
the men will stoke the fire
before manning me.
Sometimes they twist my hips with hate
sometimes with love,
their aloof face like a toad.

And if the chorus decides to croak
through my pores
my throat shall like a spirit ring
with shrieks and fits
and finally, if the man's skin can handle
my heat,

the truth,
eyes rolling back like two flies
turning over and over in a glass of milk;
many voices speaking at once
in concert with desire


*Tiresias, after having been turned into a woman, spent years working as Juno's priestess.