Pruning Burning Bushes – in Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression

Issue 2.4 of Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression came today in the mail, and in it, my first published poem. Look at me, I’m a poet. Ah ah ah.

Pruning Burning Bushes

I am over-pruning burning bushes
that border my front porch on Morgan,
cutting back two-thirds of growth
to trigger recovery from the trunk up.
Horticulturalists wince as I saw
through oldest limbs and keep going –
the shrubs are old, nothing new is budding.

Someone buzzed them back before we bought
the house, topped and tipped instead of using
crown reduction. There are a dozen leaves left,
tiny offshoots triggered – bursts of green
from long dead, empty stems. My trimming

is traumatic. The branches bend, sustained
so long by suckers sprouted in haste. Here I am,
sighing, sweating, fists on hips, the pruners
lost in the grass. The landscape breathes.
There is no exchange, no return in trauma –
either slowly hollow, heartwood rotting outward,
or grow from green into a fiery blaze in autumn.

I pick the pruners off the earth, dust
my aching hands and look for where
the calluses will form.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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