LaVerne Thompson


Your promises have all the integrity of autumn leaves
and a sooner expiration date.
This is why your voice cracks when you speak,
why your lies smell like pumpkin spice,
feel like an extinguished fire.
I think of all the wasted wood  

drowning in its own ashes.
What's it like to be a lumberjack?
To have Paul Bunyan lineage - you inherit nothing but tall tales.
You will slaughter Babe to eat her loins
then curse her for not resurrecting for you.
How does it feel to level a forest
as though this destruction is the only way for you to have a hard wood
floor stained by your own pride? How many homes
have you paneled with pine feelings just for the sake
of aesthetics?
But for once, this poem isn't about you and if I'm
going to be every bit as honest as you were not,
this poem is about me standing in a forest and yet being a lonely tree.
This poem is about me beckoning to men in
flannel and hoping to God the axe is just for show,
knowing that I will fuel my own extinguished fire.
But this poem isn’t just about how we made a hobby of deforestation.
It's about how trees never get used to holding on too long -
our leaves are proof of that.
It’s about the time a gardener stopped to look at  
what remained and I expected him to demand fruit
but he smiled
and I expected him to break a branch
but he climbed me instead
and I expected him to wander through the woods
but he sat
and I expected his disgust at my bark
but he was quiet
and I realized how rough I'd let myself become
but he was understanding
and I waited for the axe to come
but I felt water.
And I waited for the lumber mill
But I felt water.
And I waited for the flames
But I felt water.
I stood quaking at the roots
and he stood with me 
and now I know the nurturing of spring time.
I know a gift the giving tree never saw.
I know what it is to be enjoyed without being devoured,
to have someone who can't see the forest for the tree.

Originally from Rochester, NY, LaVerne Thompson has been interested in poetry her entire life but didn't get serious about writing until high school. She soon earned a place on Slam High, Rochester's competitive youth slam team. She spent the next two years performing in numerous spaces around the Rochester community and in competitions across the country, often drawing on personal hardship and the fight for social reform in her work. After her time with Slam High came to a close, LaVerne continued to hone her craft, leading to her work being featured in Critical Youth Studies, My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry, and now, Ghost City Review.