By Starkey Flythe

I see it against sky, winter

cloroxing the light as I aim

the rifle, each clump, parasite,

a world in the wider sense

of the tree. Elm, it should've been

dead years ago, hanging on

against blight, the widening

thoroughfare, the very notion

people should live in tree-lined streets.

Growth-stunted skeleton, lichened limbs,

it freezes solstice in its bones.
Weakened, prey to sticky pearls

that cling to bird beaks, feet, mizzle,

the mistletoe blooms like the brain

in a glass jar, perfectly rounded,

ended, alive with some purpose

other than mere life, signaling

the trunk to let go its silhouette,

take up its music and dance, roots

waltzing dumb in darkness.

The mistletoe metastasizes in us,

silencing the organ life cannot

do without and love can, green heart,

the same green, cream spreading

one day against the sunset of blood.

The rifle shell can bring it down, bring

us down, alter us, we who suck the earth

for breath, wait for it to hold us.

But before the parasite, almost

parasol, ribs bursting from the core,

before we know how the uninvited kills,

empties shade, two mouth draw together,

silent as breath but as determined,

and together, astonished by desire,

the dilating eye, press away the word.
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About Starkey Flythe

Starkey Flythe served with the army in the Middle East, was managing editor of The Saturday Evening Post, has two books of poetry from Furman University's ‘Ninety-Six' Press, stories in O. Henry, Best American, and New Stories from the South anthologies.


  1. Posted January 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    What extraordinarily fine fiction: both short stories are fresh, immediate, unlike fiction I’m reading elsewhere. Thank you. Sallie Bingham

  2. Elisha
    Posted March 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Starkey, your poem is excellent and am honored to read it as it reminds me of my favorite poet – Bhuwan Thapaliya and his classic poems. Thought provoking writes.

  3. Joyce James
    Posted August 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I loved being at Bread Loaf the same summer he was. His take on everything including the swarms of mosquitos we had to fight off every evening was unique. He was taking classes in fiction although he needed little advice (he had already served as editor of a nationally published magazine) but I suppose the camaraderie was inspiring. I often spend lunch and cocktail hour talking with
    Starkey Flythe a writer par excellence who was witty,
    charming, erudite, and helpful. I hope he’ll get in touch with me as he promised & send the check for writing glowingly about his talent.

  4. Eve Ott
    Posted April 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    My dear Mr. Flythe Jr.You won’t remember, but back in the late 70s when I was a beginning writer, you sent me personal comments on submissions I’d made to TSEP. Recently came across them. Since I’ve been reading everything of yours I could find online. In addition to this piece, I really enjoyed The House. As for A Family of Breast Feeders: Wow! Glad you are alive and writing on, as am I. If you are ever in KC, would be honored to have you read for our Riverfront Reading Series. Eve Ott P.S. Hope you get this.

  5. Posted January 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow!! We’re looking forward to your book. Haven’t received it yet. Thanks for calling! Don

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