Parallel Trees

#poetryandprose; parallel trees; written by Holland Carney
Photo Source: Jen Derby. Used with permission.

Holland Carney

I fall asleep against
your warm back, the
cold, curved, cursive “L”
of my bent knees nestled
restlessly behind yours,
as if tracing, erasing,
trying again until we align
perfectly; in sleep, our bodies
depict, abstractly
boxes of bundled
yellowed love letters,
stacked front to back
as we lie now, tied in
loose bundles, pink
silk ribbons holding
awkward poses, simple
sailor’s slip knots,
wanting to be chosen
fearing being left
high and dry
in the letter box

each letter begins
and ends with these
parallel “L’s,” the
letter of love, lust,
and longing; great
leaps of faith, ten
thousand warm hellos,
at long last, distant lands
small in the spyglass end
and a sailor’s thumb-worn
logbook, its leather binding
now a salted hide,
curved and softened
by age and adventure

I whisper a story, slowly and low,
it starts, “Remember the time we . . .”
All too soon, you snore, polite
as a titled lady at high tea,
earnest as a farm hand
sawing wood in the dim light
of encroaching morning

air and water intertwine
in the paddle’s pull, in the
rhythm of a rowboat,
face slack and defenseless,
entrusted like this,
to me and the devil
inside me

I fret, restless, bones creak,
nerves and tendons twist,
burn mercilessly, I’m desperate
for the sleep of my painless dreams,
I float in, fall out, wake agitated

you are a hand-hewn
cypress hull against my
rocky beach, at once in
peril and almost home free

I stand tall, wince,
lean, fear sharpening
my features into
towering cliffs
and ancient trees
and legendary
lover’s leaps

I bring my hands to
your skin by way of
apology, I’m sorry for
blocking the sun today
from the kaleidoscopic
tide pools far below

they swirl to life, fully
populated each time
I breathe, tiny little
miracles and monsters
coexist in harmony
pretty poison heralded
by garish colors

a starfish lands high,
lazes happily, her many
arms open, she is
the color of plum skin
(the paint chip I chose
for the wall behind
our bed, I still
remember your
giving way to
smiling yes)

the end of the world
comes unexpectedly
a single crash, and
we are all dragged
back to sea by “sorry”
and other honest
words of retreat, other
admissions of defeat

I am the world’s oceans,
and you are my land,
faults break open slowly,
you drift imperceptibly, still
safe in the circle of me

please stay

I read you the poem my
mother sometimes
read to me, how the
albatross brought
the mariner to his knees

you recite verse back
to me, lighter and (despite
me and my feet, center stage
in a Victorian tragedy)
almost happy words spill
from your tongue, “we
are nobody,” said Emily D.
and if indeed “hope is a
thing with feathers,” you say,
please help me set her free

Photo Source: Jen Derby, used with permission. 


Holland Carney spent 25+ years as a creative professional in marketing and media. After blogging and publishing poetry and short fiction under pseudonyms, she began publishing under her own name. Holland was a happily devoted and distracted mother of two delightful daughters. We lost Holland in 2021 and her beauty lives on through her art and her children.