Joanna Cleary

Joanna Cleary (she/her) is an emerging queer artist. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The /tƐmz/ ReviewThe HungerGordon Square ReviewApricity PressDigging Through The FatTypehouse MagazineThe Gravity of the ThingFunicularCanthius, and Queer Toronto Literary Magazine, among others. Follow her on Instagram @joannacleary121.



Tree Poem

Today, my ecology professor starts class by asking
what a tree is and all I know is that they’re hulking,
impenetrable things I could never climb: my palms
breaking on bark and my body stuck stupidly below
while my brothers clambered from branch to branch,
but occasionally I catch myself thinking of the time
when I almost did it—clung to a low-hanging branch
and lifted my feet off the ground, found my footing
on the trunk, allowed myself to become suspended
in air—until my arms gave way and I dropped down
like all the other times before, my face red, the tree
unmoved as I leaned against it in either silent prayer
or defeat, waiting for the poem I started that moment
to end, though it wrote and rewrote and rewrote itself
even after both my brothers outgrew climbing trees
and the hours they spent hoisting themselves higher
became memories, even as a pretentious grad student
raises his hand to say how we can find god in nature
(like it’s that easy), and I could reply saying I haven’t
but perhaps I once did: in that moment above ground,
no longer standing on tree roots, I could’ve believed.