Field Guide to Hives

by Elisabeth Dearborn

Cranberry Meadow Pond Trail II
Artwork by Michael Cherry


Skin comes from the same embryonic layer as the heart.

People turn, stare at you now, their mouths spinning oh’s

like fish into the air around you.

You touch the red, thickened hide riding up your hip

onto your belly, your one breast brilliantly colored

like a parrot, warm to the touch.

You tell about the impossible urge to itch,

your desire to remove clothing, run naked.

You ask me if it’s healthier to live with him

or leave him, the question making its way

from your heart to the surface where air can access it.


The skin skillfully translates what has turned you inside out,

your pores become the speaker of the house of your body

announcing with long hesitations the things you cannot tell yourself —

how living a romance that makes you molt is probably not a good idea,

how the driveway to paradise is paved with small acts of kindness.

Your heart wonders if your moments are accumulating,

like Goldsworthy art on the beach, ephemeral yet sustaining.


Listening to you, I lean back on what I’ve learned:

one, breaking my ankle and wearing a knee-high cast

was more costly than breaking up with a lover

which I finally did anyway; two, bursting an egg

in my fallopian tube when a man I never should have married

in the first place fertilized it; three, travelling through the southwest

on ice packs switching off to a fresh one every hour because I’d lost

my seating on a horse following my lover into the beauty of the valley.

I was, like you, deeply afraid of losing the dream.

I wanted to be able to say,  At last we enter paradise.

This might be what you also want to say,

but your skin has a different story to tell.



When her eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Schlesinger, began to read poetry out loud to her third period class, Elisabeth Dearborn fell in love and secretly left a dozen yellow roses and wrote a poem about the US sending a rocket to the moon. She now lives in Putney, Vermont in a cohousing community she helped found, and writes weekly in New Hampshire with a group of women writers, meeting for more than a dozen years.

Michael Cherry is an artist working in graphite, watercolor and oil. He has an MFA from the University of Houston, Texas. He taught college-level studio art and art history for close to twenty years. Michael is a life-long musician and plays the blues guitar. A former sailor, he’s made many sailing trips in the Gulf of Mexico. He now resides in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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