Unplanned Developments


An image of a fence, vines climbing up it and worming through its cracks.

trash dryads, bad news

characters, not an old tree

for miles around. Delinquents,


they lean on the chain link fences

shout insults at prim shaggy cedars

inside the back yards. no one


cares for them; cut them back

to the treeline, let them sort out

their own gangling business,


their liminal turf between masjid

and cul de sacs. the dryads try out

barbed wire anklets, smoke kudzu,


toss branches at the tinkertoy houses,

push on those fences with the patience

of teenagers plotting senior skip day.


the dryads call to the white dog, coax her

under the fence, get a smear of sacrificial

blood for their trouble before she runs off;


these pathetic lines of trees that can't

be a forest but can build up undergrowth

full and sharp as a plucked eyebrow.


The fence is slowly bending and I have

a pail of salt. but the dryad digging in

her elbows is younger than me. it's


a dilemma, and it's planting season,

boxes of tomatoes bursting up from

neatly raised beds. I can let her be


for another summer at least, let them jeer,

loom with their abbreviated

branches while the days are long,


hold cold decisions for colder weather,

cooler heads, keep the white dog on a lead,

let the dryads have the run of the fence line,


too-skinny, pallid, slumped, a rebuke to

the pampered Bradford pears spewing pollen,

a gaggle of tree-girls who can't fully root,


can't grow to wisdom, can't stop crowding,

but bristle in defiance of developers, push

with the patience of growth against fences


unaware of buckets of salt and liability

insurance, knowing only that they deserve

better than perpetual adolescence in bad soil.



Elizabeth R. McClellan is a domestic and sexual violence attorney by day and a poet in the margins. Their work has appeared in Girls Who Love Monsters, Utopia Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Dreams and Nightmares, Illumen Magazine, Rejection Letters and many others. They are a disabled gender/queer demisexual poet writing on unceded Quapaw and Chikashsha Yaki land. Follow them on Twitter @popelizbet or on Patreon at ermcclellan.