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I cut a hawthorn, stripped the outer bark
which left five shades of red to contemplate.
The first, as dark as blood, the Savior’s mark
left by those thorns that ripped his brow, pressed hate
down deep and sprouted. Next, a lighter shade
contrasted, dried like dye cast on a robe
of royalty, a third with specks inlaid
throughout and up and down its length to probe
sincerity of my belief, a fourth
with streaks of rays near brown, as brown as skin
and smooth as Israel from south to north–
the fifth protects the cambium within.
Exposed here in my hand, the Rosaceae
as white as snow and perfect in July.

—Charles Southerland