Vine

: a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground (Merriam-Webster)

It’s easy to mistake one thing for another,
especially when they’re close. For instance,

in class today, someone described the sumac
as a vine, which prompted a query and gentle

correction from the woman with a degree
in environmental science— perhaps it was

some kind of vine winding around the sumac?
—for it is a shrub or small tree with tiny

clustered flowers and pinnate leaves.
I look up “pinnate” and find it means

“feathery:” pictures of wispy arrangements
splayed out beneath a branched inflorescence

of white buds. The fruits form dense red clusters;
gathered, dried, and ground they make a lemony,

zingy condiment to flavor rice, kebabs, and a spice
mix called za’atar. From leaf, to feather; from fruit,

to flavor, to mouth. Putting something next
to another can lead to their entwining

in the mind, if not in actuality. For instance,
if I say snakes, someone might say ladders;

if meat, then potatoes. And there’s that song
about the horse, carriage, love, marriage—

which says more about our tendencies
than about the items in such pairings.

There’s a saying: even wood soaked through with water
eventually burns, when placed in proximity to fire.

Whoever made that up had things other than fire
prevention in mind. For instance: how one hand

might casually lace through another’s; how a body
leans forward for the kiss, even before the mind

takes in what dark electric snail begins
to trace its glimmering trail upon the skin.

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