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Brown leaf in a brown cup. 

Hickory or elm. It’s been 

so long I’m unsure. 

If I saw the tree 

I’d know. Maybe cottonwood. 

It came a ways 

to get where I am. 

Not near as long or far, 

but tormented and bruised, 

too far gone to touch 

no matter how kind and 

gentle the intent. 

I meant no harm, but it’s worse 

for the wear since we met. 

So it steeps and steams 

in a cup on the desk. 

Prod it now, it pushes 

back rather than breaks. 

Certainly dead, 

but finally it can stand 

the fumbling of the living. 

Autumn bullion; a gorgeous smell. 

Can’t help myself but to taste it. 

Sip it like whiskey. 

Smooth as a river stone, 

and seasoned cord wood 

with a finish.

Makes me homesick for splinters 

from digging kindling out of the firebox. 

Its closest kin 

must be 400 yards. 

I could never reach them from here. 

So I sip its tea 

to become blood brothers. 

Let it blow around in me, 

feel the soil of its homeland 

in my bones. Let the spirit 

roots feed my soul. 

I know it sounds crazy, 

but maybe it’ll work. 

Meanwhile I dry it, 

press it in a book. 

They don’t have trees here, 

but now I have proof.


Ben Terry is incarcerated at JCCC (a level 5 prison) in Jefferson City, MO. where he is serving life without parole. His work has appeared in Calore, Trajectory, Hanging Loose, Rattle, and J Journal. Ben Terry 1142558/ J.PayEmail/JCCC, MO.

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