Cheilanthes lindheimeri

Fairy sword fern
Tim Staley



You stick to moist lips

two miles up Fillmore.

I know you know

Spanish but keep it secret

deep in your xylem.


There might be something trying

to bloom inside me

but if it does it’ll violate

some basic law of science.


I wonder if I’ll be the spouse

on my deathbed who says,

nope, I couldn’t have been 

any nicer.


So many silver green

cummerbunds in a row.

You’re the last fern

as a groomsmen

I ever stood up for.


Why’s it so much easier

believing something’s true

than living your life

according to that truth?


Your frond is founded

on verdant pearl

but most of you

maybe too much of you

slides under the table

like an iceberg.


You’ve poked your fiddlehead

from a million houses

and never once

asked your friends

to help you move.


My wife asked me, do you know

the sweat you get 

after crying all day?

No, I said, no, I don’t.


Mary Oliver said, as long as you don’t

mind a little dying,

how could there be

a day in your whole life

that doesn’t have its

splash of happiness. 


I brine my mind

in death just fine;

I can feel it splashing.

It’s plain old life

I quail before.


You stand awfully tall

for a sword that’s never

cut somebody down.


It’s rare, but a few times

I doused someone to death with love,

or I accidentally

fed them love so slowly

they inside-outed their tongues

like tadpoles in puddles

gone dry.


Your photosynthesis is selfless.

I guess I’m just





Tim Staley was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1975. He’s been the primary caregiver for Grandma Moses Press since 1992. His books include Lost On My Own Street (Pski's Porch, 2016) and The Most Honest Syllable is Shhh (NightBallet, 2017).