Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Erika Luckert





Dear Gertrude, 

you write that “what we worship
makes us what we are,” and if this is true

then based on the poems of yours I’ve read so far
you are both a daughter and a god, 

if this is true, I am a vine, invasive, here 
to climb a wall. “As tendrils cling and twine 

about the tree,” you write, and I try 
to unwind your words into a history. 

Have you heard the story about the mother, 
about your daughter, who brings a stem of ivy 

across the prairie, plants it in new land? 
True, she might have known 

how it would spread across the hillside 
as it did the cabin walls. True, I might 

have imagined most of this. Dear Gertrude, 
which parts are true? How much vine 

does it take to choke a tree, how many years 
or generations for the ivy to spread 

clear across a mountain range?
“As tendrils cling about the tree,” 

you write, “your love and friendship 
hold the heart of me.” If this is true, 

I see the heart of the family 
crawling out of the body 

and clinging, lining, twining, 
taking hold of the land. 



Portrait for Gertrude

Did you, like Stein, hold a vine
in your hand, caress completely
and repeat and repeat
repeat the word, repeat
the world, caress
and address a noun
hedera helix, english
ivy, wordly ivy ivy 
ivy the way
we say a prayer 
or insist in speaking
ivy ivy that something 
must be. 
Was it a space. 
Was it a cabin. 
Was it a space.
Was it a mountain
some blue mountain-
side with a cabin beside
was it     there in Tennessee
               a space to see. 



The Vine

The vine grows. The vine 
climbs. Trained, the vine

lines the wall. The vine 
flowers. The vine 

is eaten by a garden snail
who leaves unsightly holes 

in the leaves. The vine 
veins, the tissue

between feeds insects 
at the larval stage. They

skeletonize the vine. We believe 
the internal architecture

of the vine. The vine climbs.
The vine leans. The vine 

means. When I say ivy
I mean family. When I say ivy

I mean enemy. When I say 
ivy I mean vine I mean me. 



Author photo by Jason McCormick

Erika Luckert is a poet, writer, and educator. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s MFA in Poetry, and a recipient of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, CALYX, Tampa Review, F(r)iction, Boston Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Edmonton, Canada, Erika is currently a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. More from this author →