KNOTS IN THE WOOD
All these patterns in my hardwood
floors, curl and swoop of the grains,
sporadic umber circles interrupting
the parallel lines of the boards. Before
sheltering inside for a month, I’d head
straight for the kitchen or bathroom,
not even glancing down at the oak’s
polish. Today I’m staring at the nodes
and knurls in these planks, learning
that knots are formed from branches
that died. Some of these resemble
the pockmark on my left arm from
childhood’s smallpox vaccination.
Now they remind me of the spherical
shape of the virus forcing us to
stay home. Tens of thousands already
dead. Covid lacerates the lungs, air
sacs plugged with fluid. When I look
into my yard, oak leaves fluttering,
I remember: Trees are the planet’s
lungs, breathing out oxygen, moisture,
swelling rain clouds that feed us all.
I glance down again at my own floor,
its planks sawn from trees once
living. No surprise these knots don’t
remind me of rose buds or pearls,
but blisters, scars. And accusing eyes.
WENDY BARKER’s seventh collection of poems is Gloss (Saint Julian Press, 2020.) Her sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time (BkMk Press, 2015), won the John Ciardi Prize. She has also published five chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2013. She teaches at UT San Antonio.