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I’m bright today over
southeastern Ohio,
sparking a heat advisory.
Independence Day revelers
gather fireworks, prepare
beers, set up grills.
“It’ll be a hot one,”
they say to each other,
eyeing the sky, at once
excited and horrified,
helpless before the glare.
Meanwhile, I’m heating
up the atmosphere, doing
all I know how to do.


I’m the dark in the woods, between the trees, below. I am my own landscape. I have no name. You see me from the interstate, in your car, and you wonder what I am. I’m here. I grow larger as the forest returns, which the forest always does. I speak a language you don’t understand. There’s much here you don’t understand. The sycamores and maples and oaks entwine, and the squirrels and rabbits make homes in their roots. We, all of us, animal and plant and the dark spaces between, know how to survive. We have something to tell you, if only you’d ask.

Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She’s the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press). Visit her website at

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