apologetic kisses

A birch is a tall
slim-trunk’d tree,
draped in white bark
when everyone else
wears green.
The wind flays her ivory satin.
From skin, to strips.
She is black underneath,
and her petals grow gold
in the fall,
throwing themselves
at the cutting air
in humble offering,
in apology
of her survival.

The birch on my farm
had seen better days.
Bleeding, peeling.
She held a red carpet pose.
Her gown stained,
curling from her body.
Her leaves no longer gold,
but a nickled,
crackling silver.
The birch on my farm,
an aged queen
living and dying on a hill.
When the sky came
to collect its gold,
she gave it nothing,
forcing it shake her
and break her arms
to steal even one
of her minted leaves.
She had run out apology
years before I met her.
She wore her gown, her skin,
her blood, her branches
like armor.
She pulled the apology
from her leaves,
and lost the gold of them,
the glamour of them.
But when they press down now,
there is surety
and purpose and sound.
Her kisses pierce
like arrows.

When I tell you is a difference
between a survivor
and a warrior,
I think of the birch
on my childhood farm,
and how she looked
just like her sisters.
Tattered by life,
elegant anyway.
I think of how she turned
her leaves to steel.
How she mined herself
of fragility.
How she fought,
and broke.
How she could have just
like the others,
but she was built differently
under all that ivory,
under all that black.
Something in her roots
made her a fighter.

Something in my roots
makes me a fighter, too,
but my kisses fall like apologies,
and I drop them freely,
letting them fill themselves up
with the gold at my core.
When I tell you there is a difference
between a survivor
and a warrior,
I don’t mean
that I am not both,
not birch.
I mean I am finding a balance
between my sctivist roots
and my passivist leaves,
negotiating with
the winds of change,
trying to see the trade
in what feels like a taking,
searching carefully
for the hill
I might just die on.
But I have not died,
and my flayed skin
stands out in the landscape,
and I still have more
than I deserve.
So I shed those leaves.
I share the gold you gave me.
I kiss the treasure of you.
I cannot take my armor off,
but I do not fight for life.
I have not died
when others have,
and I am sorry,
I am sorry,
I am sorry.