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Digital Poetics #14 leaf person: Callie Gardner


walking in the woods, i read a leaf person,

a jenny haniver of the forest floor, their mouth

a ripped-up rictus of matter or paper, whichever worsens

the houseprice worser, when we all know bay leaves

they leave beliefs. the text offers you a tissue

but it’s merely a sad old approximation – a minimum

in this time –

unconscious, i swam into the kettle

of the mind’s eye, a floatsome, jectsome harp on

about the keynote squeaker, whose paws in questioning clasped

a slim vibration, a resonant phrase whose meaning tended

to be mistaken. narrow woods shot through the city

in vein attempts to judge themselves the heart of

the matter. and i felt like i knew, although

this was often assumed, that they offered arcane transport

from the arrived world, where we lay, stupefied, law-kissed,

milk-drunk, and awaiting the christ child to come with

my parcel. sorry we missed you. said the little

fragmeant or ostrakon wedged into the rope-hole in the

floor of the treehouse.

worse than a lack of

awareness, it belies a fatal disconnection from the threads

that web together the world under the moon, motionable

and peripatetic by nurture, but guarded as a consequence

of the merry-go-town or upland, down. find the sun

just by putting your curious eye to the knot-hole

and breathing in as if to prepare to whistle.


you only need a little height, and pointed north,

for roof- and hilltops to typeset themselves so legibly;

how near, how apart they seem, their butch solemnity

an extensive revelation. as i stood under the spreading

tree, it rang, temple-domed, with noiseless paeans, the song

of souls, and i understood why they believed hearts

were souls, so quickly, strenuously did the ache harry

my chest-bones, held by morbid recognition. parks are fiddle,

cities are smut; grey ambivalence towards the long atrocity

still chokes each recreation. queens, kings, lords, and merchants.

dedicated ground, battle-soaked, brittle-titled, iron-clad, sign-posted.

in my dream,

i open my pocket knife, and then, upon waking,

fold it up again. where do dreams of bleeding

come from, when there’s no blood left to let.

it’s like tying a silk ribbon around a broken

tree branch, or maybe like burning sacred wood to

get rid of a bad smell. you can read

leaves, even if you cannot speak them; needle’s a

kind of leaf, although somehow it never seems vertible

enough. trees are a pyramid scheme anyway, free debt

to the earth; i am in arden too, said

death. what condition led you here? what’s your tendency?

when i was out of doors i was in

a better place, but masked revellers must be content.

it turned out the angry men were full of

goosefeathers and loose straw, and could be easily dispatched.


one wrapped in mould and bandages like cheese never

forgave those who extracted their vocabulary with a hook,

kept it in a canopic jar, leaving them sullen

on the slab until the resurrection, no leaves remaining

to be overturned in the interim. it’s about being

a belief person; get thee to a mummery, carry

on the show – more content, more argument, another verso.

caught between pages, trapped in the ecosystem, yet somehow

can’t make like a tree, and leaf.

the bookish

natural sun, desiring a return to form, a geometric

unravelling, each angle another sacred revelation, the shadows of

praying hands like ink on floorboards, soaking into fibrous

channels, minor rivers changing their names as their careers

advance, watering a clutch of lonely ogham scratches

in the margin of the sky. a text unweaves

in reverse, each letter made of leaves, each leaf

hoarding a library in each cell, which is where

the monks worked patiently at their washing of skins,

and their illuminations.

much later, turning cards over in

anonymous fascicles, characters unspool. a long-dead ox leaves bones

across the top of the page. we wait for

the rain to dry, the isles of its attention

drowning in day-air. with a start, i recognise some

character i know in the leaf-face, reversed, as elsewhere

in the building a bell is heard to ring.


Callie Gardner (they/them) is a poet and critic based in Glasgow. Their book-length poem naturally it is not. was published by The 87 Press in 2018, and their writing on poetry can be found at


This publication is in Copyright. Callie Gardner, 2020.

The moral right of the author has been asserted. However, the Hythe is an open-access journal and we welcome the use of all materials on it for educational and creative workshop purposes.

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