Not How I Touched It, But That I Touched It At All

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Not How I Touched It, But That I Touched It At All
by Elizabeth Oness

As a child I couldn’t leave things alone:
a perfect branch must be torn from its crux,
the bark of the black birch peeled back
for wintergreen. When ice began to limn
the shallow puddles, I tested the frost-hatched
covers, pressed my toe against the seam
of water and air. In the pearling fog of early
morning, I waited for the bus, breath-white
billowing, and played at smoking cigarettes,
held damp stems against my lips.

Then the Jewel Weed rose up. Snap-weed,
Touch-Me-Not, I rejected those names,
it longed to be touched. Genus: impatiens.
The striated pods grew full and thick,
pale chartreuse and then translucent.
Overnight they grew transparent, revealed
a small, black seed inside, a necessary
dark. When the pods reached their fullness
the lightest pressure caused release.
Over and over, an involuntary gathering
beneath my fingertips: the tangled curls
of filaments arced seeds onto the ground.
Standing in the laden bushes, over and over,
fullness and release. My breath white
in the dark morning, autumn-sharp air.

©2002 Elizabeth Oness and Nerve.com