The Cost of Living

by Rachel Shopper

If one creature’s survival
did not damage another’s,
the curled lips of the wound on the beech
would become green and ragged,
the sap would weep upward
and seep back inside.
The flakes of bark would float
upstream, skitter back against the wind,
lift to paste again
against the trunk. The beaver’s teeth
would ungrind, sharpen,
and exit the scrape, the vapor
of her breath would unglaze
from the space between mouth
and trunk, the leather of her paw
would push her backwards, her teeth
would retreat toward the jawbone,
shortening, leaves would suck themselves
into the umbrella twist of their buds,
birds would unfasten their nests
and scatter wisps of moss and grass,
the stars would scrawl backwards
against the night sky, I would release
my face into your skin,
my mouth would close,
and the truth would climb back in.

Rachel Shopper is a poet, naturalist, and outdoor educator. She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Western Carolina University. Her poetry has appeared in Armchair/Shotgun, Asheville Poetry Review, and Shadowgraph Magazine. She lives in Leicester, North Carolina.