Read+Write: 30 Days of PoetryRSS

Laurel Slick

26 April, 2018


by Diane Lueptow

Laurel Slick

Could be woman or plant, mountain or man.
How to tell mountain laurel from rhododendron
is: short leaf, short name; long leaf, long name.
Once laurel was ivy, and rhodie was laurel.
Shorter yet. I’ll tell you, I can’t say
the difference is obvious. A slick is
both together. Rounding a trail in the Blue Ridge
I turned into something else, as sometimes laurel
is lambkill. I turned into thinking and not thinking.
I came into an airy cove, high in the side
of Mount Pisgah, where I was half embraced
by rightward branches—trail gone, all still—
and leftward fell across my neck long-fingered
leaves, and before me in the circlet’s gap
were far-off mountains, drifting mist, hawk
sailing the interim. A tiny danger
as the boat turns in to the wind, stalling
to change direction. There was no breath anymore
for one man. There was breath upon another’s
cheek from the other man. Petrarch
was a mountaineer. He climbed Mont Ventoux,
saw a wreath of clouds, Italy, the Rhone, the sea.
I see what the imagination is.
I was given a hiking stick of laurel
from the mountains. Or, rhododendron.
Most likely, the archaic coronet was
oak leaves. Amongst the highland laurels Wright
made a jutting house as if of those ledges
common where I’m from. As a people,
we couldn’t see to it now, I don’t think—
the parkway of the Blue Ridge.

“Laurel Slick” by Diana Lueptow, from Little Nest. Wick Chapbook, Kent State University Press, 2015. Used by permission of the author.
Diana Lueptow is the author of Little Nest and a recipient of an Individual Excellence award from the Ohio Arts Council. She holds a degree from the University of Akron and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her poems have been published in FIELD, Arion, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, The Stinging Fly, GTK Creative Journal and Verse Daily. Her play, The Shoes That Wore Themselves Out, had a staged reading in 2017 at Talespinner Children’s Theatre in Cleveland.


Think of a time when you saw a group of animals moving together: buffalo stampeding on TV, dogs running on a beach, birds flocking, giraffes or elephants on a safari, fish in an aquarium. Write a poem about that movement.

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19April, 2018: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

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READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.