the poetry that matters

Tree Riesener

Tree Riesener is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Liminalog, a collection of ghazals and sijo (Inmates Run The Asylum Press, 2006), Angel Poison (Pudding House Publications, 2007) and Inscapes (Finishing Line Press, 2008).

She has published poetry and prose in numerous literary magazines, including 5_Trope, Evergreen Review, Ginosko, Blue Fifth Review, Loch Raven Review, Pindeldyboz, Identity Theory, Blood Lotus, Boxcar Poetry Review, Belletrist Review, NEBO, Acclaim, The Source, Hinge, Schuylkill Valley Review, Diner, Mad Poets Review, Albatross/Anabiosis, Lynx, The Ghazal Page, Fine Print, Anthology of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, Hidden River and Ernest Hilbert’s E-Verse Radio.

Three short stories have been staged in the Writing Aloud productions of InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia. A winner in the Authors in the Park Short Story Competition, she has won three first prizes at the Philadelphia Writers Conference for the Short-Short Story and the Literary Short Story and was a Semi-Finalist in the Pablo Neruda Poetry Competition. In 2009 she was a Finalist for Black Lawrence Press’s Hudson Prize. During summer 2002, she was a Hawthornden International Writing Fellow at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland. In 2004, she was awarded the inaugural William Van Wert Memorial Fiction Award by Hidden River Arts.

Active in Philadelphia-area spoken word activities, she has been a featured reader at The Well Fed Artist, La Tazza, The Philadelphia Ethical Society (on behalf of Poets & Prophets), Kelly Writers House, Robin’s Bookstore (for the Women’s Writing and Spoken Word Series and the Moonstone Series), The Book Corner, Barnes and Noble, and the Monday Night Poets series at the Philadelphia Free Library. She is former Managing Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Tree’s website is http://treeriesener.com and she blogs at http://treeriesener.blogspot.com.


open the cream with a paring knife
jab your finger for a drop of blood
say let my mother die

all these swim in cod-liver bottles
all these hide among the crackerjacks
all these live in trash-filled streets

looking for a kindly death by lantern light
some soft bed tucked under codicils
or under hidden prayers contract signed

when bloodied cries of shock no tears
announce a tortured entrance ramp
dead neon’s in the exit sign

a capping verse will not be painless.
even nursery school demands tears
add something new to prayer

hail mary to versed after slipping down
the tributary to the greater stream of glory
trailing through the pounding walls to lead you home


the binding of isaac
ruined angel
you doorway embracing ruins
one leg on either side
clasping the threshhold tight as a fucking toad

did you spend eons in a lump of coal dying for love

while god ate some bowls of prayer

and those snowflakes
different drops of rain pain
you fallen demon
with your hide-and-seek your peek-a-boo

shake the kaleidoscope
into something new
and we’ll invent

eight million names for god

let us measure time
do you remember
(no matter let them be one)
cusping the seconds
buried where they fell

plague victims genies in jars tree roots
students in libraries the old in nursing homes
employees under their conveyor belts
the concreted lit by candles                           

infants the aged ill and dead
bourne in love or shoulder-high
like shrines mosquitoes ID cards
all the stuff
money keys and rabbit feet
loosely attached to us

our dancing halos of perfume
the deacon’s bible dancing torah
ruminant wafers baked of bubble gum
communal juicy fruit

so fine when we grow young
with candy gods reborn to us again


devouring goddess
deadly anchored sea thing
oh mother with snakes in your hair
you are fat and sleek

I run away
stumbling past the icy lake
of broken winter branches
floating condoms
follow fog-filled coffee wind
to the pretty japanese pavilion
near the water

am I allowed to be here
in this sheltered building of the knowing
their winter furs
fragrant with department stores
chairs beside them
full of flowers and silk
boxes of pretty chocolates

please do not refuse my money

pretending not to see they stare in horror

hurry stuff choke on
pink-iced almond cakes
yes the very ones they are eating
delicately with small forks
cram until crumbs
spew on the dainty tablecloth
gulp cups of sugared cream-filled
scalding pain
rejoice with swollen blistered lips
you still can feel
not yet recovered
I spread my down-filled jacket
on the black-and-white waxed floor
pat myself to invite the cat
welcome every man to my embrace
stuff money in their pockets
wish them well
bear children for all the barren cradles
read every book in the world
race from picture to picture
whisper scream and sing
fire the world with single candles
listen to every bird
destroy all prisons
send a note to god 
“I claim my grace”
look around
a lingering backward glance
and then prepare to go but

as I cross the threshold the world shudders
settles back into new configurations

those corners
are they as they were before
or has the new geometry arrived

those bunting rats with old men’s faces
has someone shredded the
mesozoic butterfly

oh I think perhaps I am not yet there

will I need to strip naked
roll on broken glass
let crashing heavy metal
possess my blooded dripping body

in a time and a time and half again
you can dive too deep and walk too far
so that even the crumbs won’t lead you home
the cold dark closet is waiting
the hunger the chains

only you will sustain the coffee drinkers
oh more and more

I am very tired

devouring goddess
deadly anchored sea thing
oh mother with snakes in your hair
you are fat and sleek

either way
the end of the world
could go either way

everything coordinated
you don’t have to wait in line

or never knowing
who will answer your call

the dead stumbling dazed
but little the worse for wear

or the living ten vaccinations
behind the plagues

heaven no longer home
to orion’s belt and cassiopeia

or new stars bursting forth
like a fourth of july screensaver

hungrily thankfully lie down
with everyone we meet

or in bewildered loss
feel between our ken and barbi legs

stroll on moving ground
like an airport sidewalk

or slide on buckled
los angeles freeway floors

dream in fragrant silk
on ironed linen sheets

or awaken drenched 
afraid to tell our mothers

gravity tentative
mate in the air

or wrench open the dark closet
of the starving scapegoat child

tender and tremulous
in a state of grace

or undeservedly damned
it may go either way

in that space of time or unmarked void
at the end of the world


the order of quecreek mine
past a floating peach
libation tubes
carry summer chardonnay

an icy six feet down
to your parched lips
or through the snow

a stirrup-cup of cinnamon red
kegs from chin to chin

st. bernard’s party game
yes you can play
or yet again

vivacious summer air
floats icy drafts of
air-filled beer down

rumbling rabbit holes
an alice-drink-me potion
to quench your thirsts

when you hear the cork
bounce off the stone
you know something’s up

you move to the tube
like shadows
around the blood trough

avoiding the sword
key in  hand
string stretched up

to ring the bell
call for the pipe
by such devices you withstand

the present of present
present of past
present of future

water’s promise lamented
you pace the crucifixion

in cathedral tunnels
like mary’s close
pipers drown

your plague laments
in white nights
before witches’ sleep

dyers watch
the time-marked loaf
while mothers and fathers

drill illicit bread-
no cake-sized holes for you,
sentenced to firedamp

for stealing your bodies
yet hoping still  to lie
in consecrated ground


sweet smoke swirl twist
chemicalnovas cominatchasilkywaves neonrainbows
spicy cup floating applesinwine
vibrate the bodies’edges dissolution
aching edged with sweetness
offer myrhh some have no fear drop into the sweet abyss
ohohoh sharp cries sailing notes pounding hearts
you there eucharist ricoshayinround the room
over the edges of the silver cup sink into
the bread of the bread all the bread of the world 
challa pita sesame wholewheat succulent bagely yeasty crusty loafly beauty
you there open you’ll know mother bird her gaudy plumes
mouth-to-mouth for you carnations chunks of sops-in-wine
or must you neatly sweetly cross your hands
hold out your cordialbegging bowl
or clutch a discoursed crispy disk of fishes’ gold
edges blur merge with the air with the gold with the music
thepainpainpain with pain breadpain compain copain
breathe breathe breathe our air
companions of
 the common

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