Three Poems by Stephanie Unger

Landscape with Path Leading to a Copse of Trees (ca. 1890-92, pastel over monotype in thinned oil paint).

Edgar Degas, Landscape with Path Leading to a Copse of Trees (ca. 1890-92, pastel over monotype in thinned oil paint)

Stephanie Unger is a writer who lives in Buffalo, NY. She has studied poetry at workshops led by Martha Heyneman and others at the Rochester Folk Art Guild in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.


My greatest fear is that I will pass away before my time,
only to exist long into the future in a dank fog of worries
and drowsy superficialities that grudgingly hold down by the throat
all the joys that surge to live in me from beneath the sadnesses
that I talk, talk, talk at rather than gather myself to sit before
when they have need to speak to me enduringly
of what I have forgotten to feel.


A Tree Explains What It Does

Sift wind,
slicing it to make
it sing under the
but coming from around
the base of
my trunk, where
dried rivers of bark
carve out what can
be heard
only if
you honor me
by sitting
my branches and
sharp-edged leaves
until you are
enough to listen
to what the
rings inside me
guard from year to year.



I had forgotten that I was a gardener
until we bought a house with three yards—
two for keeping up appearances
and one to legitimately neglect.

Or at least that’s what the previous owner told me
as he stood staring at the far-away sun-dappled plot:
“I just let this go back here,” he said.
“You don’t need to do a thing, and it never needs mowing.”

And that’s just what I did the first few years
until half-starved for Earth’s intimacy
I rediscovered what can be grown in hard clay
if the need arises—my only option to stand still
and work with my hands close to my heart.

“A Tree Explains What It Does” and “Gardening” were first published in the internet Journal In-Between and are republished here with the agreement of the Editors.