The old woman warming her hands in her armpits.
She stretched her cold-kinked spine.
When she could feel the blood moving in her veins,
Sluggish though it was,
She bent to collect the scattered sticks.
she saw in a bush a few feet away
perched a bird,
its head raised as though in song.
It was white as the snow,
and as she approached
it didn’t fly away. It didn’t move.
The poor thing was frozen solid.
Carefully she pried it from the branch.
She cradled it in her hands and admired its perfection:
feathers as delicate and precise as plumes of frost on a windowpane,
eyes like icy dewdrops.
A tiny icicle of tongue protruded from its beak.
Perhaps, she thought,
if I take it home and warm it by the stove
it will sing to me.
She slipped the frozen bird into her pocket.
Back in her hut,
the old woman built up the fire,
then settled the frozen bird near the stove.
tucking the bird into its folds.
She nudged it closer to the stove.
The room grew warm; Yet the bird remained frozen.
She lifted it gently and held it on her lap.
She dribbled some broth into the open beak.
But the bird didn’t swallow.
The soup spilled from its mouth
and froze into a tiny gem that fell into the woman’s lap.
The old woman squeezed another drop of soup from her finger.
This time, the bird’s song held memories of first love,
of lash-lowered glances and blushing cheeks,
of clasped hands and furtive kisses.
Tears brimmed, and when she wiped them away
they froze on her cheek.
She looked at her.
The song ended and tinged one wingtip.
color and life returned to the bird.
Its feathers reddened to pink and then a brilliant scarlet.
Its eyes grew black and shiny.
and its beak stayed white and cold.
The bird sang of soft golden light
warming the world.
I hear heavy footsteps approaching me,
Crunching the leaves beneath.
I sit up straight and try to force a smile.
"You have been crying again.
I hear a smooth voice.
It's none other than my best friend, of course.
He lost his parents the same night I did.
He has been my guardian angel.
I smile and look into his eerily serene
Gray eyes that look deep blue in the dark.
He smiles back.
I see it, a yellow leaf
Among so many.
In the front yard;
One by one the dead leaves fall,
yielding gently to the call
of the autumn wind.
Half reluctantly they go,
Falter, waver to and fro,
glancing oft behind.
How the wind catches them,
greedily snatches them,
Whirling and swirling them
coyly it plays with them,
Sportively sways with them
Down to the ground.
The leaves by hundreds came—
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
and leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
and everything was grand,
Weather led the dancing,
Wind the band.
The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.
It’s the last day of school,
and you’re tipping toes by my kidney table
story-eyed as you ask me what we are going to do today.
the expression on your face perfect
like a flame finding its shape,
You tell me your mom’s boyfriend finally moved out.
“You can’t make an apple hang like a peach.”
I ask you to draw a picture about what you’re going to do this summer.
after about five minutes, you walk up to me with your drawing.
Tell me about it…
You comma in the moment,
swivel your head,
and point to it.
“It’s a picture of you
and my mom
at the stars.”
My son, stopped during our walk through
a eucalyptus forest to his school and said:
“mummy, the trees are talking to us.”
I stopped too and listened along with him to the trees’ rustle.
“It’s the wind mummy,”
then blew a puff of air onto the back of his hand.
“The trees talk through the wind.”
Another time she said to me
“When I die, mummy,
I want Mother Earth to turn me into a flower.
And you will be a petal in my flower.
So will my sister.”
He added that grandmother will be another flower
growing next to her, “a friend.”
The wind’s soft static in the pine trees above
and the air fragrant with pine, he added more softly:
“But we don’t decide what we are after we die.
Mother earth decides.”
Nature once tumbled through our language. There are practical ways we can bring it back.
Her kiss is the brush of silk against your lips.
The faintest taste,
The slightest touch.
It caresses your neck and shoulders,
Flushes your cheeks and raises a flutter of wings beneath your skin.
You float with your eyes closed,
Your breath forgotten at your throat,
and cling to the sensation knowing it can’t last.
And it doesn’t.
It slips away,
fading to an impossible hunger,
a whisper that gnaws at you until there is nothing left to give.
And then it forces you to open your eyes.
You withdraw your hand and nestle it
beneath your body before it’s infected with the truth.
The broken windows and appliances,
I recall to paint you
a picture of a kingdom fallen,
but there was no kingdom.
There was just an ordinary house in the suburbs,
one with red bricks
and vines and a hydrant out front.
I can create almost as real but more lovely.
I can rebuild our home.
I can make my father a hero.
He is own hero,
in every sense of the word
With all of the good things.
When I say that
I made a fiction out of my father,
I mean to say that
his living and his dying
were so much less than anything
my imagination could offer.
I could be practicing
my own ceremonial
practice of grief.
That seemed too
indulgent a thought.
But whatever part of me
believed in the strength of
my artistic intention—