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When the seafoam of your garment brushed
my bare skin for the first time, I knew
that I’m blessed,
that nobody dear will leave me,
that nothing is lost. The ghost of you
startling and tattered, often berating:
a comforting companion. The quince trees
listen, even if you don’t;
trees listen deeply.

Later, on your destroyed hill
among the wind-felled bodies of my quince trees, I knew
the taste of that ending; no new ghosts rising
from the still-green boughs.
My land, a spent syllable.
My hand, an unformed word
clutching, clutching air.

You are the one I could cradle to my chest,
the exhalation of you, still sputtering
grievances of a thousand years’ past, and I was glad
that you could still be bitter. I know

that we are whispered into this new land,
this old land, whispered anew,
a land which did not need us, or anyone,
delivered by its own desolation,
rejected and rejecting, but still
it let us come here, grudgingly,

gesturing the long, slow words of its rule.
On more than one condition—but one of them, you:
your death, your endless complaints
beyond all disasters—all you.
Not quite dissolving, never ending,
prepared for nothing good, and yet

replanted. And I will tend to you
beyond my own death, if I need to,
into a tree of your own self, retelling
yourself, and me with you,
through all the cycles of land,
until once again
we are ready to bloom.

R.B. Lemberg (they/them) is a queer, bigender immigrant originally from L’viv, Ukraine. R.B.’s work set in their fantastical Birdverse has been a finalist for the Nebula, Ignyte, World Fantasy, Locus, Crawford, and other awards. R.B.’s Birdverse collection Geometries of Belonging is currently shortlisted for the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. You can find R.B. on Instagram and Bluesky, on Patreon, and at
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