Letter to a Birch Kid

Art by Connie Pan

Writing by Jack Starobin

Kid, 
You can’t just be radical. 
What’s a tree without a trunk. 
You can’t just live underground 
In this visionary sweat, 
The soiled sea you standing on, 
Curling around your ideals 
Without a sunlit trace 
Of what you map out in the dark 
Under this scorched, shadeless place. 
You fell in love too many times 
With purple things that taste like ginger
To die without blooming. 
You’ve seen too many rings 
To call yourself budding anymore. 

Anymore is all we’ve got. 

I read something that whispered like the water.
Sloshed, slid down these empty highways,
Lifted children from these pavement arms
To wash the crust 
From this concentric, whirling march. 
“Who has you within him is mad.” 
I read that line and grit my teeth, 
Flailing,  
Gnashing, 
Tearing something to shreds. 
I saw you stand the torrent. 
Swaying like a flooded birch, 
Swinging, 
Going nowhere, 
Heroic. 
The river fears you, kid. 
Earth’s the right place for you. 
It sends me streaming down to murky basins,
Peels the final inches of my fingertips from ledges,
Rocks, 
Crumbling soil, 
Taunting my eroded fingernails 
With the gurgle of my futile snarls 
Until I find the madness 
To just
Sway. 

Grip the earth. 
Reach, squeeze, 
Launch over this desert
And know: 
You are more than the root.