the small i by Saramanda Swigart

this is my country  

look 
i overturn the junk 
drawer of my 
white/middleclass 
life and take stock 
rifling 
i find i am not a capital letter anymore 
first person singular has shrunk 
wizened down 
to that apple core i found beneath the car seat last month
or that ivy there, brown and dead 
because i killed it 
the waxy leaf tree outside 
the front door 
(the city said we were its stewards 
in a single-page note 
in our mail 
box) my heart 
brimming then 
with the largesse of new motherhood 
i thought i could 
take on the health 
of every tree 
in california but 
over the course of six
years the ivy became a cloak around
its trunk
then an embrace
then a stranglehold
until tree leaves thinned
i spent a long time
tearing up the roots
of that ivy
now it browns––
saved the tree but
ivy clings
a flammable bolus around its midsection

and the small i––how to locate i when i
am both tree
and ivy?

Saramanda Swigart has a BA in postcolonial literature and an MFA in writing and literary translation from Columbia University. Her short work, essays, and poetry have appeared in Oxford MagazineSuperstition ReviewThe AlembicFogged ClarityGhost TownThe Saranac Review, and Euphony to name a few. She has been teaching literature, creative writing, and argumentative writing and critical thinking at City College of San Francisco since 2014.

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