Planetary Pardons

In the spring, I lean into the blossoms 
of a Texas mountain laurel
and inhale the grape Kool-Aid scent
of childhood memories. 

The forests stand no chance 
against our buzzing saws 
but instead offer us rings, 
intricate etchings of their stories
and the history of this land. 

I drive to San Antonio in the fall,
colliding with a ribbon of migrating monarchs. 
Their delicate paper bodies
smash into my windshield.
My grill skewers them. 

The next day
their distant cousins dance 
around me in my yard.

I watch the atmosphere swallow pollution 
and cough up breathtaking streaks across the sky.

Is this what forgiveness feels like?

Lauren Oertel
Noyo Review Pieces

Lauren Oertel is a community organizer covering Texas and New Mexico for a nationwide nonprofit that works on voting rights, policy advocacy, elections, and antiracism. Her work has been published in The Ravens Perch, Evening Street Review, Gemini Magazine, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Noyo Review, The Bloom, Steam Ticket, The Bluebird Word, Mystic Owl Magazine, Bridge Eight, and The Sun Magazine. She won first prize in the 2021 MONO. poetry competition, she was a winner of the 2022 Writer's Digest short story contest, the 2022 and 2023 Mendocino Coast Writers' Conference poetry contests, and a finalist for the 2023 Prime Number Magazine Award for Short Fiction. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner Orlando and their tuxedo cat Apollonia.