Brian Koukol

(N)EVERGREEN

in the time of crushing crushes
my hands had better things to do
then pine for others to hold them
knowing without knowing
that small hands are more sensitive
and what they feel most is pain
for what are pines without their needles
but grotesque, unfit, and scorned?

now I am a bristlecone
my bark is set, my trunk is twisted
and a lonely hiker finds me beautiful
but my hands are gnarled claws
that scratch when they kiss skin
and time has contorted those fingertips
into barbs that hook themselves;
to touch now is to be touched
where the nerves are loathe to feel
beneath those calluses of burl.

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