by Cheryl Stiles

leave comfort root-room
           — Gerard Manley Hopkins

Comfort me, can you, at Betty's creek near Beech Trail's edge? Herb gatherer, manroot,
mandrake man, make of the auburn strands of my hair kindling, a coiled tinder. With flint, single flick

of wrist, start and tend a fire. Off! To the great horned owl's lament, slip off
this cobalt-colored dress. With it winnow the flames higher. Blue dress — blue center of flame.

Incense of oakstem and leafmold, smoke from roots — you incant their Linnaean names.
Heat everywhere, outside and within, rises — rill of blood and desire — rises like ladder rungs.

Herb gatherer, manroot, mandrake man, do you love this burning?
Comfort me. You can. Savor salt, sweat, skin. Can you taste the ashes on your tongue?

Cheryl Stiles works as a university librarian and researcher in Atlanta. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, Pedestal, Storysouth, Atlanta Review, and 32 Poems. Several years ago she traveled to Indonesia where she first tasted her favorite fruit, salak — a fragrant fruit tasting of pineapple and apple, with skin like a snake.

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