The tree of death is saving my life.
My skin burns with the sunset and rust
of its leaf, its sap, its poison in proportion
to how much to kill, how much to save.
Graveyard tree, roots hollowing passages
in the Underworld I might travel from
to crook a sky in an elbow of branch.
Taxotere, Agent Chemotherapy, yew and me
wedged together, become each other – wedded
blood to blood. Remember me? I climbed you,
maimed you, saved your leaves for this – knew you
hated interference, amputation. I swept up your leaves
like tears – rage not sorrow. Now you have me.
This time I can’t descend without consent,
can’t let go. I’m hooked on you.
Lest I catch my death of you, be my angel
either way, releaf me from this half-life.
Yew by Ruth Calway won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2019) judged by Roger Elkin.