Under the right conditions—
soil, water—the seed sprouts

into a pair of impulses: down,
up. It grows roots, trunk,

branches, leaves, a life.
Years pass. Decades.

Sun, rain, clouds, snow.
Bark hardens, dead limbs

drop, leaves unfurl, reach
skyward, fall. Fruit ripens,

tumbles, rots. Light feeds dark;
dark, light; sap rises in secret,

moving through what is rough
and what is wood, through

what is and will become
the heart.

A Word

A raven launches herself
and flies out of sight.
The empty branch trembles.

Sacred Ground

You’re likely to miss it:
your senses no longer attuned
to the sacred, nor to groves

of trees. You can recognize
a forest, sure, or a decorative
Japanese maple, or a row

of pink-blossomed cherries
lining a boulevard. But
the difference between a grove,

say, and a copse, or just a clump,
that’s nothing to bother
the busy post-modern mind.

You’ll probably walk right past.
But if, somehow, you do find
the sacred grove, if you tremble

slightly and remove your shoes,
if you gird your loins,
whatever that means, and step

foolishly, bravely, among
the leafy branches, what do you
expect? Will the earth shake?

Will the trees bow down to you?
Will some goddess extend her
hospitable hands in welcome?

Oh, mortal, must everything
always be about you?
The god is away on business.

(stanza break)

The goddess has many concerns.
If you wait in the dappled
shadows, if you let your eyes

adjust to the play of light
and dark, you will begin to see,
as if it were just arriving or

suddenly revealing itself, as if
it had not been there all along,
a figure. You know exactly what

it will ask of you, mortal. You,
who wrestle with overwhelming
information. You, who keep track

of earthquakes, of the rise and
fall of governments, of all
the voices weighing in. You,

who live in one small corner
of the ever-expanding universe.
Is it any wonder that the gods

are busy elsewhere? The wonder
is that God is here at all. Just here,
among this copse of brick

buildings, in that grove of laptops,
in this thicket of words. Oh,
mortal, unless the sacrifice

you carry in your trembling
arms is your own beating heart,
why offer it at all?


  • Lenae Nofziger

    Lenae Nofziger is a writer and teacher. She grew up in Oklahoma with frequent forays to Alaska and always knew she was most at home in the Pacific Northwest. She came to Seattle as a volunteer with Mennonite Voluntary Service and worked for several environmental nonprofits before earning an MFA at Eastern Washington University. Now an English professor at Northwest University, she teaches classes in creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales. She attends Seattle Mennonite Church. You can find more about her and her work at

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