And the Leaves, the Flowers

and the leaves, the flowers

She was the only person who left me a note about what type of tree she is—which by the way is a magnolia. (Ask her why.) -from principal’s weekly newsletter to faculty

So I did—ask. They’re fun

to climb, she said, and the leaves,

the flowers. I thought then


of how I had never climbed

a magnolia, never lost

my body in the glossy spearhead


leaves, the blossoms set in solitude

or pairs—as feathered and full

as resting doves. And I wondered


whether I could, still, now,

after long, lift limb to limb

and limb to limb. Weeping


willow—because I’m beautiful

and sad, I said when she asked,

and we laughed


because neither of us knew

if this were true but knew it couldn’t

be wrong. I have hidden behind


those summer curtains and stripped

yellow whips of their slender, shineless

leaves, been a smudge in the palm-


smeared paint. I have reached

and climbed into that spill,

that riverside sway: a bow


to water’s whispered prayer.

These languid arms have such shy

fingers: flowers that do not try


to look like birds,

or even blossoms,

at all.


Image: @tairen /

About the author

Benjamin Cutler

Benjamin Cutler was raised on a riverbank. A two-time North Carolina Poetry Society award-winning poet, Benjamin's poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Pembroke Magazine, Noble / Gas Qtrly, The Carolina Quarterly, and Barren Magazine, among others. Benjamin is also a husband, a father of four, and a high-school English and creative writing teacher in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. When he’s not reading, writing, or playing with his children, Benjamin can be found on the creeks and trails of his mountain home. His debut book of poetry, The Geese Who Might be Gods, in which this poem appears, is forthcoming and available for pre-order from Main Street Rag (May 2019).