BY rhonda Lott

Once while hiking, I found the biggest
tattooed with speared hearts, dead loves.

If not for green lichen skin, it would look
less tree than human.


In dreams, low branches lead to invisible rooms
like smooth stairs. I climb under

the glossy, green shingles
every day until the paper wasps take over, peek

from hives like blackheads, and find me
in their world. The villagers hack it to a stump,

but that tree is stitched
into my sparking synapses.


My neighbor, retired
pageant queen, cross-stitched a single

white blossom that grew outside
her window. She never finished.

In a thick storm, her magnolia burst
through her bedroom ceiling, showered blue toile

with black mold, plaster of Paris, splinters.
For the rest of her life, that magnolia

lived with her, leaning closer as she slept,
breathing her breath. One Sunday,

when I missed the smell
of black coffee, I opened her unlocked door to find

her snap bean frame stiff in her bed, leaves dotting her hair
like chives in rhubarb tart. And mossy limbs

reaching for the floor with blooms
like the soft, plump hands of a young belle.


Rhonda reads "Magnolias"

Rhonda Lott is currently a doctoral candidate at Texas Tech University. Her previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Los Angeles Review, Cream City Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and more. She also serves as an associate editor and artist-in-residence for Stirring: A Literary Collection