I thought that birds were Gods, small like me—
but confident in what they knew they could do. I never
wanted to be a dusty home-cawing rook. You asked me
once which one I could become. You had in mind
Briar Rose. You never were one to notice small miracles,
the soot on my forehead when you kissed me,
the burned cinders I play with, the bitter residue.
I’ll write you back tonight, then maybe never again.

The stutterer who owned the tree farm now
sells Christmas wreaths from a half-acre his rich cousin rents.
I pricked my finger on the wild rose bush you dug
up and dragged to my house while he slept off a drunk.
Nothing comes without a price you told me. I tore
my fingers across the sides of those cat-claw roses
to conjure you back, just like you threatened I would.
The chanting in my head couldn’t fill the plate

at our plain wooden table. Morning doves pick
at the bloody-tipped seeds I offer up again and again.
I wait for them to sip my blood, to herald your return.
My fingers are raw but as you warned they are not scarlet
angels. Even the cardinals have fled and abandoned us
for Mexico. Tonight I will give us another chance.
I look for a sign of fiery shadow-birds among the cloistered
branches. I remember how you burst into Nessun Dorma

when you wanted to be holy, a snatch of Hallelujah
to awaken our dead with an offering of the everyday.

Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussions in New Jersey libraries for over 16 years. Laurie was named “Poet of the Decade” by the InterBoard Poetry Community, as her poems received awards 43 times, including 2012 Poem of the Year as judged by Toi Derricotte. She is published widely in university presses in the United States and was recently in an anthology, St. Peter’s B-list.

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1 Response to Ashes

  1. Pingback: Lear’s Toads | Melancholy Hyperbole

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