footprints, fruit trees

iron tyrants scored Mother Earth and bled her dry generations before

was born, bequeathing me / us the aftermath – a rusted tin can  

rolling across dirt and tattered rags; monarchs and honeybees exist only 

on yellowed postcards. the barrenness scissors any thread of hope.  


when Grandsire dies, we bury him naked and coffinless in the ground so that 

we might reduce our already-heavy footprints… as if (just once) 

solicitude might make a difference to the dismemberment. later, we 

discover a three-leaved seedling where Grandsire’s gut would have been. “are  

you sure?” we measure the grave’s dimensions, survey the pale sky and earth swallowed 

by drought – and hope. when the next corpse is planted, it happens again


unexpected life sprouting where minerals leached, organs fermented. something 

unnaturally green, its vein-wrapped trunk hearty enough to with– 

stand the desolate climate. as their breadth increases, we hear fast-flapping wings

of birds i’d read about in textbooks but never seen. they perch and 

caw from the bone-white branches covered in blue buds and dotted with spurs like

hundred crooking fingers. when they bloom eyeball-sized fruits, a pleasant 

scent mists from their punctured, star-shaped rinds. upon these, the birds feast every morning. 


as their filled crops expand, their wingspans widen; their nectarous song  

floats farther from the trees. one dawn we waken to find that Mother Nature’s will 

has changed. there’s wind. the sky plumes clouds that fatten gray with rain, each drip 

splashing palmfuls on flora and fauna, wet pearling off each massive bird’s back 

to nourish the land. as the clouds disperse, our trees stretch closer toward 

the welkin. and we dwindle into insignificance, harmless before the 

growing kingdom. tiny as ants marching over the healing earth. 



A native of Tampa Bay, Crystal Sidell grew up playing with toads in the rain and indulging in speculative fiction. When she’s not busy with librarianship or writing, she’s usually looking for ways to spoil her pets or stopping traffic to rescue animals. A Pushcart Nominee and Rhysling Finalist, her work appears in 34 Orchard, Apparition Lit, The Cosmic Background, F&SF, Factor Four Magazine, and others. You can find her online at or through various social media platforms @sidellwrites

As a special treat, you can also listen to Crystal Sidell reading her poem with her birds chiming in in the background!

Photo by Victoria Chen on Unsplash

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