They sing in different trees, the trees still root into the earth held together with soil & invisible sentience—fungii, bacteria—& the air & ground falling in love & fighting all the time. Here, we tread, bottom feeders of the air, topdogs of the soil. How did we lose everything? Is memory that insufficient? I am willing to hear the owls in the distance as they call, but isn’t there also the sound of cows low-lowing their song, needing to be milked or reunited with a lost calf or who knows what? To have mercy is to forgive despite a deserved punishment; grace is being given something even though we don’t deserve it. We can be the bestowers of mercy or grace, or we can be the receivers. Like the four directions, but requiring compassion & kindness. Somewhere is the nexus. I thought we both stood in the same spot; now we are just owls unsure of our relationship forgetting everything but the way sound travels in the dark night.


LAURA MCCULLOUGH is a poet and memoirist whose books include The Wild Night Dress, selected by Billy Collins in the Miller Williams Poetry Contest, University of Arkansas Press; Jersey Mercy (Black Lawrence Press); Rigger Death & Hoist Another (BLP); Panic (winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award, Alice James Books); Speech Acts (BLP); and What Men Want (XOXOX Press). She teaches full time at Brookdale Community College, has taught at Stockton University and Ramapo College, and is on the faculty of the Sierra Nevada low-res MFA where she teaches poetry and critical theory. Visit her at