Peeling the willow

The knife point scores a snaking furrow
along the branch's belly
and the smooth green casing splits
clean as plastic under the point.

I cinch my thumbnails into the fissure,
into moist fibers of living bark.
When the nails curl away from the core
I pull.

My peel is perfect.
Flesh pares away like a latex glove
producing a flawless relief,
exorcizing the branch core.

I want to be opened this way
hulled to my sticky ghost center.

The tea brewed
from willow bark
is bitter.

Rob Thomas