Anna Lena Phillips Bell

Qualifications for One to Be Climbed by a Vine


If not utter stillness, at least dedication
to sloth; if not sandpaper surface, the texture
of knotty fenceposts, or the trees they were made from.
Resistance to gravity—if not pure vertical,
angling up, and so closer to sunlight.
When, wavering, greenest of greenest, a curling
shoot chooses its tangent from rootstock to leafout,
I wonder if I should stand straighter, stiller,
or stretch out a finger to capture the waggle
of winnowing vinetip.
                                         Which one would it wend to?
I channel the light-pole, the stake and the slender
gray post of old cedar, the wire that connects it
to others a vine could extend its new tendrils
around over hours, or days—could I stand it?
Stand still and stay put for enough of a lifetime
for waver to wander toward me and find me,
describe me, in spirals, as road leading sunward?

Anna Lena Phillips Bell’s book, Ornament, received the Vasser Miller Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in 2017. She teaches at UNC Wilmington, and calls Appalachian square dances in North Carolina and beyond.