|Chagrin River Review||
Black Walnut Trees in the Front Yard
Even before you tear a seed packet,
you say, nothing will grow.
Corrupted. That word—again,
before your foot touches the ground.
Don’t even pull in the driveway.
It’s the sixth rental house we’ve visited and
the cutest of the bunch.
You say, Black Walnut Trees,
like salt in the eyes, soap on the tongue.
Their roots poison everything--
venom trails—seeping tar.
I see shade, a cool Saturday lawn-chair shade,
pooling in three dollops in the yard,
my bare feet chilling in the green mat.
The grass that doesn’t seem to mind
what shares its dirt.
It was always like this, with you, wasn’t it?
Judgment folded into those two creases
above your brow—me, gripping the steering wheel,
a doorknob, a pencil—while you
dug up some iniquity. Pointed out where God
went wrong with me.
Why can’t you see the screened-in porch; the empty
hummingbird feeder waiting for juice; that young willow,
its green top like a messy little fountain; the sun--
across the road—setting behind the Black-Eyed Susans--
a whole field of Black-Eyed Susans.
I think those
bruised and stained reddish-brown,
must have curved their way
right through you—
Just roll up the damn window,
you say. I say.
And a swatch of leaves—fern-looking —drops--
on the windshield like a bad joke from God
I turn the wipers on— off— on again…
Your window closes like an oiled zipper.
See, you say, with that sound again…again
in your S’s. See.
Yes, you know evil.
Good for you.
And I drive us home.
One day, I’ll be free of you, mother,
and I’ll go back to that little
rejected rental house
and celebrate Juglans Nigra
--roots and all--
I may draw a bath, on that day--
fill it with the essence of the Killer Tree--
iodine and juglone,
tannins and the acorns of Jupiter.
And sink into the black water.
Jeremy Schnotala just finished his MFA in creative writing at Western Michigan University. He lives with his husband in Grand Rapids, MI where he has taught English and creative writing and directed theater in the public schools for twenty-four years. He was shortlisted last year for contests at Writers@Work, Glimmer Train, and The Masters Review, and recently won first prize in the Saints and Sinners 2018 Literary Festival fiction contest. His recent published work can be seen in Temenos Literary Journal and Beecher’s Magazine.