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About this poet

Leah Naomi Green grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and received an MFA from the University of California–Irvine. She is the author of the chapbook The Ones We Have (Flying Trout Press, 2012). She teaches at Washington and Lee University and lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia.

Field Guide to the Chaparral

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly. 

There are candescent people in the world.
It will only be love
 
that I love you with.
When we get home,
 
there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone.
There will be our bedroom.
 
What is it you eventually recognized
in my face that allowed you to believe me?
 
Beauty that did not come from you—
remember how it did not come from you?
 
As white sage does not come from the moon
but is found by it and lit.
 
The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper
 
cannot exist without the back.
Because there is a there,
 
there is a here. Chaparral,
the density of growth,
 
and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore
 
through it because they had to,
to keep walking without
 
being hurt. It is OK if we hurt
one another.
 
Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open
 
otherwise.) Love needs lover,
whose last lover was flood.

Copyright © 2017 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green is the author of the chapbook The Ones We Have (Flying Trout Press, 2012). She lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia.

by this poet

poem
the room where I want to rest,
I find my hands and am able 

again to see you—
clear eyed where we left one another—

last year in the passenger’s seat,
having woken after Colorado, which was beautiful

and which I did not wake you for, 
wanting all the aspens, 

all the golden, quaking aspens, and their silence
poem
“It is your very self” I tell him.  
He has never seen me.  

His quick coin of breath disappears on the glass as it forms: air 
that feeds his bones their portion

willingly as it feeds mine.  He spends his here, 
besieged by the dull birds who gather 

and whom he cannot touch, his own feathers 
red as wrought
poem
I cut a cantaloupe from its rind and hold it, scalped 
and slipping.  Inside it, there are seeds in folding rows, 
dark in the concentric hollow, and I don’t know how 
I will remove them, 

and I don’t know how they keep one another, 
in loose grasp, from falling, 
or what they would touch if they fell.

Washing