caroline shea

An Index of Common Tree Diseases

The first time I came home,
The neighborhood was naked and shaved raw
like a summer leg or a chicken set for slaughter.
They had cut down the trees and the empty space ricocheted
off the backs of my eyelids. Trunks once lined both sides of the street,
neatly framing eighteen years. Their bark blighted and branches sagging
with rot, it was necessary to remove them (The messy business of sickness
is usually better done in silence. Or not at all). They left behind stumps
throbbing in manicured lawns like ingrown toenails. Without the arc
of their white-blossomed ribs, the straining corset of the street
came undone.

They don’t tell you your bed will feel strange
the first time you sleep in it again,
a stranger on the bus, pressed too closely to your side.
Everything familiar turns foreign, eventually–
or is it the other way around? Regardless:
I struggle to navigate myself among the jetsam of my childhood,
to calibrate my reactions based on outdated maps.

It turns out nineteen is a year of liminal space–
all airport lobbies and strips of highway lit like matches against the dark.
Change sits more easily with me than it used to. When you say:
You didn’t used to be like this. I think, yes,
but so what? I can set up camp in the wild in-between
and live there comfortably.


Caroline attends college/avoids hypothermia in Vermont, but was born in Pennsylvania. Caroline has received multiple regional prizes in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as a National Silver Medal in 2013. Work also appears in Panoplyzine, Moonsick Magazine, and Yellow Chair Review. Caroline was Editor in Chief of the 2014 Kenyon Young Writers Workshop anthology. Currently a co-editor for the University of Vermont’s literary magazine, Vantage Point.



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