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Sassafras

Say it slowly, let
the syllables whisper their way
between your lips like
the wind through the trees.
Say it loudly, boldly,
in a child’s voice, vowels
drawn out, held, rounded
like the lobes of a leaf.
Say it not at all. Name it
by its scent, the sweetness of it fading far too quickly
into the crushed bitterness
of a freshly snapped twig.
Gather a basket and lay it in the sun.
Take handfuls of it
in your child’s hands, hold
them to your face, grind
the veins and arched, delicate bones
into each other, and attempt to wear it as perfume.
Break the stem with your thumbnail,
as gently as the wind
carrying a leaf to the ground,
and spend an afternoon or a lifetime
of hours not wasted in the shade of its branches.





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