Her blazing optimism intolerant
of every asserted impediment,
she torches the doubters like heretics
at the stake of her well-meaning world.
Under those who claim universal indifference,
the cheerful priestess sets a minimal fire.
Too large and the death would be easy by smoke.
Much better a slow roast to help them repent.
Why not just admit this best of all worlds?
Why not surrender the false idol of nil?
As the crackling fat drips from their third degree angst,
and their knowing absurdity rises spiraled and black,
she is there in the sunlight smiling,
"Convert to the true faith or die!"
The skeletal mesquite on life support
laughs her canyon-lipped refusal, cliffed-
out and leaning over the plumb-line drop
into air heated blue by the desert below.
Roots, tangled and rattling.
Confused tubing fastened to feldspar.
No longer xylemic. Capillary action
inactive. Transpiration shallow.
Corrupted bark falls away in black shingles.
Shriveled seed pods past procreative hope.
Amber sap drools incontinent, staining the slickrock.
Blown branches all grown in one direction,
like the wiry black hair of an ancient crone,
grinning as she steps over the edge.
Over the years, Fain Rutherford has worked as a soldier, lawyer, university lecturer, rock-climbing guide, survival instructor and at-home-dad. He currently resides in Washington State. His recent poems appear or are scheduled to appear in Subliminal Interiors, Right Hand Pointing, Poetry Quarterly, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, Connotation Press, and Apeiron Review.