Sarah Kain Gutowski

As long as the ash tree stood, the world of the Aesir would last, for it was Yggdrasil, the world tree.


Imagine I am a tree.
And at my roots I hold
three selves, three sisters, stacked.

One squats and bears the weight
of the other two combined
and balanced on her back.

Her spine like ironwood
remains unmoved, despite
the ways her sisters shift.

The middle one distrusts
the girl on whom she rests
but shrugs to free herself

from the legs around her neck.
She seethes with jealousy
and bites her sister's knees.

The third cannot bite back.
She hunches low and frets
about the roots, which grow

in knots above her head.
Beneath this canopy
their shadows tremble and blend.


Now imagine I am three.
Not the tree. Instead,
a totem made of flesh

beneath a wooden sky:
my many fingers spin
the thread of possible lives.

Gray cord denotes a life
colored dun, a hue
with toil in every fiber.

To ride this line means work,
and only work, and strife,
and weariness, and death.

The second kind of thread
gleams bright as foam on waves
convulsing after storms:

This for a woman filled
with joy and anguish because
she loves, and then love fails.

The third, the gold, the best
is saved for a woman bold,
a saintly heroine,

who guides herself through toil
and love without the scars
amassed through tribulation.


Imagine this is me:
A woman split, like lightning
forks a sapling oak

and each tine grows toward
the light it needs to live
after birth's first flash.

Can such a woman be
content with just one fate
between her squabbling selves?

Won't they start to knot
and cut the threads they spin
when envy cramps their hands?

Won't they come to yearn
for lives apart despite
their fear of solitude?

Together they make a wheel.
Like spindles, their fingers twist
ethereal batt to yarn.

Lives, like handspun, pool
around the ancient tree.
Yet no matter how they long

to occupy the lives
they spin, they won't unravel
from one another yet.

Conjoined by fate, each girl
is just a cog that moves,
a piece of a spinning wheel.

Sarah Kain Gutowski's poems have been published in Verse Wisconsin Online, Verse Daily, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review. She is the author of "Fabulous Beast: The Sow," a chapbook published by Hyacinth Girl Press.

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