On my mantle, the boughs of pine begin to bald—so I gather
them in my arms, lost child, & head to the yard.
My hands full with scent, shoulders bent
over the branches quickly dropping
needles I will not pick up—how does one begin
to explain one’s sadness? Bless these short days
which unhook us from ourselves like a shirt hung to dry, loose
threads’ limp sway. Today, any little thing can unravel me.
I cannot bear to turn back in. The yard is cold:
the sun straddles cleanly the high fenceline
like a wheel caught to the curb, paling the pine
delicate in my arms—indigo veins on the thin of a wrist,
branches like streams transparent under the shedding
light. This is how to care for someone else:
wrapped around another body,
though this one is gummed with sap, pressed
to the pulse as if it will flutter away. Inside, your letter
waits for me: you typed it, caved in
behind your computer, the tick of keys a scatter
like a stone thrown at a flock—birds simultaneous lift
a burst of insanity. I’ll wander room to room,
witness their slide to darkness like a chain
of chords falling. As if I could play the right one.
I am not ready for this yet. Only this: the smell,
the smell of pine. This is how to care
for someone else: you lay them down.
When they die, you let them.
100 The Paris-American
Lena Moses-Schmitt is an MFA student in poetry at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is the lead associate editor of Blackbird. She was a finalist for Crab Orchard Review’s 2013 Rafael Torch Literary Nonfiction Award, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in THRUSH Poetry Journal and Superstition Review.
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