Asheville Grit and Dogwood Alliance are proud to present Audrey Amir’s “Etymology,” the first runner-up in our inaugural flash writing contest on the theme of Southern forests.
I do not remember sweet tea, or biscuits. I do not remember the sound of my mother dropping beans into a bucket. I do not remember sticky summer sweat or the gift of a breeze. I do not remember fireflies or Georgia. But there is a drug in the telling of them.
I watch your mouth move as you teach me of myself. Your lip curves just so, and though I do not remember your name, each time you come I remember the shape of that lip and I know it must be you.
We take long walks. I move slowly, touching this leaf and that one. My head spins with the desire to know what to call them. You tell me Catalpa, Dogwood, Cypress, Live Oak. I press my palms to their trunks. Hold wide, flat leaves up to my face. I press their delicate stems between my fingers and watch the milk run over my nails. You tell me I lived here.
“When,” I ask.
“Always,” you say.
I nod. I am sure that must be right.
One afternoon there is a tree wider and taller than everything. I am sure it is a thousand years old.
“Perhaps,” you say.
I am glad to be right. Glad that trees can live a thousand years.
“Live oak,” you say. “Spanish moss”.
You are always doing that. Noticing my head tipping back, my mouth going slack. Telling me things, so I won’t have to ask. Some words you try to explain but can’t.
“Live oak. Spanish moss.”
I see them. Dripping, verdant things.
But remember when she came with you, and you told me her name (which I forgot) and after she left you said “love”, and it didn’t make any sense to me? She held your hand and smiled at you and you never stopped moving your littlest finger (pinky, I learned) across the back of her hand. Still it did not help me understand.
“Live oak. Spanish moss”.
I lay down in the soft peat, pressed my ear to the earth, ran my littlest finger (pinky) over a twisted root. Never stopped moving it. I looked up through the branches, wide like sky, spreading like synapses. Like the ones I have.
You lay down with me, touched your shoe to my shoe in the dirt. It did not surprise me. I think I remembered that you would. We breathed – ozone, mushrooms, heady and damp.
“Live oak,” I said.
“Mhm,” you said.
I watched your lip.
“Sam,” I said.
“Mhm,” you said.
“Love,” I said.
“Love,” you said.
Audrey Amir is a psychotherapist and poet living in Rochester, NY. She holds an MSW and an MA in Creative Writing. A nature enthusiast and amateur wood-carver, she derives much of her inspiration from the natural world. She uses narrative and creative approaches in her therapy practice and encourages self-expression as a means of meaning-making. She can often be found deep in the woods or playing with her kitten, Mercury.