I called them all Karl Foerster. They stood soldier-straight just before I slashed the machete through their ankles, just before they timbered to the ground.
I told all the Karls that they were my lovers. I talked to them each day, and let them compete for my affection. Then I killed them.
Every year, at the cusp of winter, I carried out this execution, moved from cluster to cluster to strike down the Karls. They never cowered at the sight of the blade. Sometimes they swayed, if the wind willed it. Thin, but strong, they stood at attention, and waited without fear for their ending like all heroic lovers.
Even when they fell, stacked on top of each other on the ground, lifeless, they did not go limp. Straight and stiff, they waited for me to lift their dead remains. I gathered them in my arms, pulled them up together, and piled them in a wagon. Their bodies bundled, packed tightly against each other. Then I wheeled them off to the woods, and heaped them high so they could rot with company, but out of my sight.
I left their feet behind.
From those feet, new life sprouted. After several pregnant months, the next army of Karls rose up in force, grew together, strong and thick, to love and battle with me again.
I let them live, for a while. I gifted them with water and sometimes food. The hardier the soldiers, the better my view.
Then I married Jacob St. Pierre. Together, we said goodbye to the Karls. Jacob brought his own blade, and helped me slice them down. While we worked, we spoke in Latin to each other, saying things like Calamagrotis x acutiflora until we laughed, until the hunch in Jacob's back didn't bother me, until I forgot that I loved the soldier-straight Karls first.
BIO: Kelsey Englert's writing has appeared in The Broken Plate. She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing at Ball State University, and is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at West Virginia University.