Muriel Nelson’s publications include Part Song, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize (Bear Star Press), and Most Wanted, winner of the ByLine Chapbook Award (ByLine Press). Nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Four Way Review, Front Porch Journal, Hunger Mountain, National Poetry Review, The New Republic, Northwest Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Superstition Review, and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Italian Culture published her critical essay on Eugenio Montale. She holds master's degrees from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the University of Illinois School of Music.
My Life as a Tree
You can call me dirt lover
or blue sky researcher.
Obsessed by wind and sibilance, by howling vowel,
by fear of saw,
I’m part storm, part sun,
part filthy-booted spelunker,
part sappy-flowered cradle rocker,
flaw in cosmic law.
My limbs reach most inelegantly
up and out and up and up.
My roots drill most determinedly
Dressed in something fluttering,
or crowing, whistling, chattering,
and now, when going out, in anything
but green, I bow low
to my flickers’ drums
and with whole flocks and rosined bow,
I cry foul and cross that singing saw
to make it howl.
The Difference between Tree and Log
In the clip where they try
to fell someone,
the surrounding color is green,
as a lush forest blurred out
of focus, rustling in
a crisp new way.
Mouths, mikes, and stiff hair
zoom large as fault lines
pull taut and cuts buzz.
From the right, tiny eyes shift
to fill your screen. Just
try to walk out
into spring. Sure, buttercups
girl-scout low ground
and cottonwoods sweeten
the air where they lie. A mutt
in her shining black lab
coat gathers bulldozer
scents and marks stumps. What’s different?
Downed nests? Egg stains?
Bareness? It’s despair —
that night-exploding thing’s scattered feathers.
Afraid of height?
Of shifting logs?
Of the lone fir left at quitting time
or the perch the crow blackens? Never mind
the fir’s wild sway, its scanty roots grown in crowded
woods. On the ground lie plenty of balance poles,
and around us, electrons, scientists say, push back.
There’s wind to lean on now, that white-noise version
of crow song that’s matched by the mind’s ear’s sibilance:
Fauré’s sweeping sanctus, sanctus clears
another space. A violin tries its wings —
sanctus — lifts and circles back — then rises
over orange machines and trills through diesel
smoke as the crow flies to a higher place.