(poem from Wildwood Flower by Kathryn Stripling Byer)

Two dead leaves

on the table and ice

floats on milk like the ashes

of leaves. Oak

twigs kindle

and fire leaps like a prayer, “Give us

breath.” When I open

the door and breathe deeply

the cold air inflames me.

The fire seizes log after log.

In the garden my husband burns

dead stalks of squash and potatoes.

I sweep my dust into the coals

and our smoke mingles over the orchard.

In autumn I sweep the floor gladly.

I gather the crumbs from the cupboard,

and the rinds of the apples.

When my dustbin grows heavy,

I give what it holds to the fire

and the fire sings its song:

raise your dead

from the earth, make a fire

of their bones,

set them free

to be sky,

to be nothing at all.

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