Sarah Matthes
The Mercer Oak

The oak cracked in four.

Outside of the tree, the air was still humid,
even after the storm that had killed it.

Inside the tree, well.

Maybe if I had paid better attention to how I felt when holding my breath.

Finish your dinner, look down at your plate,
think “that is all now inside me.”

             Why do we never do that with the air?

             This could be my greatest lesson.

The storm twisted its humid ropes into a whip, and lashed the tree until all at once it gaped apart.

Sectioned neatly as an orange
shared across a square dinner table.

In its place
they planted a sapling.

It looked like an arm
seizing out of a grave.

A wind blew with nothing
to feel it move, so we didn’t call it wind.

There is something that sits in me
waiting to become what feels it.

Sarah Matthes is a poet from central New Jersey. Her debut collection of poetry, Town Crier (Persea, 2021) won the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. Selected poems have appeared or are forthcoming with Pleiades, The Iowa Review, jubilat, The Journal, Black Warrior Review, Yalobusha Review, poets.orgMidst, and elsewhere. She has received support for her work from the Yiddish Book Center, and is the recipient of the 2019 Tor House Prize from the Robinson Jeffers Foundation. The managing editor of Bat City Review, she lives in Austin, TX. Find her online at