Terry Trowbridge

woman holding fern leaf

Terry Trowbridge’s poems have appeared in The New Quarterly, Carousel, subTerrain, paperplates, The Dalhousie Review, untethered, Quail Bell, The Nashwaak Review, Orbis, Snakeskin Poetry, Literary Yard, M58, CV2, Brittle Star, Bombfire, American Mathematical Monthly, The Academy of Heart and Mind, Canadian Woman Studies, The Mathematical Intelligencer, The Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, The Beatnik Cowboy, Borderless, Literary Veganism, and more. His lit crit has appeared in Ariel, British Columbia Review, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Episteme, Studies in Social Justice, Rampike, and The /t3mz/ Review. Terr

Fern Antennae and Botanist

Pushcart Nominee 2023

The forest ferns lost their leaves a week ago
to November’s late frost, early sleet, short days.
Fern stems, browned, alluding to slime and leaf litter,
stick-up as mere antennae that no longer receive
dappled patterns of light that make up the semaphore of trees
flickering their canopy on breezes.

A parka-orange botanist sits in muddy lichen.
Clipboard sits on limestone rock.
She thinks about what the fern roots know,
sensing vibration and temperature through those stems
Roots that, now with photosensitive eyelids chlorophyll-closed,
make their subterranean observations,
knowing their sensors will soon droop.

What the roots remember at the liminal moment of sleep
could be compared to the sun in springtime.
The lesson could be sculpted into the shapes of spores,
recalled in first pheromone hellos to their forest neighbours,
inspire blueprints for next year’s root routes.

What would be the use of these last days of meteorology?
Do the ferns understand the anthropic uncertainty of seasons?
What, beyond art for art’s sake,
the botanist asks herself,
does the fern do with their dead stems;
does Botany offer the fern?