Broadside #25 (Winter 2012 / 12.2)

Rita Quillen

Tree Gothic

       1. Blood Tree

I loved the tree for its shade
The dark gift it offered
And for the gory memory:
My neighbor’s grandson Johnny
Hidden in the high limbs, and
The neighborhood wild child
Hurls an ax up into the rustling leaves.
I thought of Fess Parker.
Johnny didn’t scream, only grunted
Climbed slowly carefully
Down one side of his body
A solid red plate of blood
While his sister wailed like some sick bird
Will he die? Will he die?
I thought of Poe.
While wild child walked away
Head down, not running
Not looking back.
Epitaph written.

       2. Trees with Ropes

What is it about swinging from trees?
Some ancient mitochondrial need
To bond with birds-
An arrogant attempt to break the law
Of gravity—
The hunger of prepubescent girls
For some touch
The air moving the hair on our unshaved legs—
For whatever reason
Our trees
Always had ropes in them.


Author’s commentary: The genesis for the “Tree Gothic” poem was a workshop exercise by fine Ky poet Leatha Kendrick. At the Hindman workshop one year, she had us “draw a map of our childhood” to use as a spark for poem ideas. Boy, did it ever work!! I realized just a few minutes into the exercise that my map was a landscape of “important trees”. From that came the idea for a series of poems that I think of as “Trees I Have Loved” poems. It’s been amazing to realize how deeply rooted, literally and figuratively, so many experiences are in the natural world, how land and memory meld.

In addition to her collections, HER SECRET DREAM, OCTOBER DUSK, and COUNTING THE SUMS, Rita Quillen is the author of a book of critical essays, LOOKING FOR NATIVE GROUND: CONTEMPORARY APPALACHIAN POETRY, and an unpublished novel entitled Hiding Ezra. Her work has appeared in Antietam Review, Chattahoochee Review, Roanoke Review, Appalachian Journal, and in anthologies such as BLOOD ROOT: REFLECTIONS ON PLACE BY APPALACHIAN WOMEN WRITERS (UP of KY 2000); LISTEN HERE: APPALACHIAN WOMEN WRITERS (UP of KY 2004); GIRLS LIKE US: 40 EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN CELEBRATE GIRLHOOD (New World Library 1999), and SOUTHERN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, Vol. 3.

About bluefifthreview

Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow, is an online journal of poetry, flash, and art.
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6 Responses to Broadside #25 (Winter 2012 / 12.2)

  1. I am so proud to say I know Rita Quillen. No one and I mean no one can make a tree “real” like Rita. BRAVO!

  2. Same here, Rebecca. I absolutely agree.

  3. Wonderful work. And I love that prompt, for all kinds of writing. I have drawn that map, too, and had students do it! So much comes forth. Thank you.

  4. Glad you like the broadside, Kathleen. That is a fascinating prompt.

  5. Leatha Kendrick says:

    Rita, thank you for remembering the workshop and mapping prompt. It has been a powerful source for my own writing. And it’s thrilling to watch what emerges as writers re-enter their childhood spaces. But it is your craft and vision that give us the ax, the ropes, the dark and delicious tree spaces and make me catch my breath!

  6. Pingback: Archives for 2012 | Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series

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