How a Tree Transforms to Wood by JoSelle Vanderhooft

Before her foliate nativity, her crèche was the cedar breaks
the sweep of robin wings, the limbic
pulse of shock-headed polycephalum and great dog stinkhorns
blossoming like dark tulips in the hot bed where she rose—
tall-headed, green and spindly as a question mark
drinking light as through a straw.

Then she was single, nutrients and coil bound up with Self,
a tiny verdant sprite; spiral of hair, breasts, feet, eyes
hands tucked around the thin sprout of a neck
eager, so eager for the sun after
eight dark months of dreams.
She spun webs between herself and the not-yet tree
sugar-thin, pulse-strong, slick and cell green.
Thrust deep in nuclei her tapered hands
clutched an emerald center, shaped it long
raised it to join the canopy in conversation.

She knew the whispered speech of ash and brittle pines:
We trees are ancient; you are but the leaves.
You crack in heat and blow away in cold
we stand and increase shaking in the breeze.

Her palms, stronger than time, pressed the seed like clay
fresh from the wheel, while she, laughing sang
the chorus that would guide it through the air
until it flowered: We are here and now.
We have forever, we have all the world.

And there were showers, there was light and time
growth and mist like silkworms and cocoons.
The Tree curled first like hair, straightened to a point
then lifted its small head towards the sun,
eyeless but awake, its verdant chin
sharp and new with awareness. So it would thicken
a decade, three, than five beneath rough bark
great with rings, darker inside than cocoa beads
and cherry stones. A century, then two,
wrapped up in its years like a coat,
now the highest speaker in the whispering fields.

When their rubber steps unfurled
the dirt like flags and sent the marmots scattering
she did not think to scream, even when steel sharp as moons
tore xylem, phloem, molecules and rings.
In flashes of leaves spinning like film reels
she fell asleep. And suffered stranger dreams.

JoSelle Vanderhooft is a previous contributor to Cabinet des Fées. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2004 and has been roaming around the United States ever since. She is the editor of an anthology of Sleeping Beauty, Indeed, a collection of lesbian-themed fairytales for Torquere Press. Her works can be found in upcoming issues of Star*Line Magazine and the Prime Books anthology Jabberwocky #1. Her essay “The Most Important Letter of Your Life” is also slated to appear in an anthology of young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender writing. A benefit for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) it will be released from Random House/Knopf in 2006. She also writes for several newspapers and magazines.

Image Arthur Rackham, from The Old Woman In The Wood, 1920