Phantom Limbs

When you burn your life down

to nothing

 

it takes a long time to rise

years of reaching out

 

With or without feathers, the sifting

through ashes, burnt bone, table legs

 

is difficult work: a shoe lace, a blue button, scraps of leaf colored silk

you don’t remember wearing

 

Memories you can’t recover, sing and itch like phantom limbs

you feel but cannot see

 

The eggs you crack for breakfast

held promise once

 

Home on Your Back

Every horizon is an invitation to start over

you remember this line as you make coffee

in the French press you unpacked earlier

you can’t remember who told you this

or if at the time it helped.

 

From the back porch, you look east

to the yet unopened sky

partially blocked with shrill green needles

huge pale gray clouds hover overhead

a hint of pale yellow showing through

you will see morning before light sparkles across the marsh

with its smells of sawgrass, earth, decay

 

not what your roots know.

Anxiously your toes curl

origins thin and pale under the balls of your feet

crimped inside your soul, not ready to dig down

to connect the familiar

with the unfamiliar

 

Behind you, boxes sit unopened

full of kitchen things wrapped in newspapers

furniture pushed into empty spaces

you will trip over chairs for weeks

until muscle memory takes over

and you make what you have carried here

home, another home

 

The only familiar sound is your breathing

orange brushes of words from other mornings

trapped in warm coffee, you hold

your youngest daughter balanced

on your hip, head buried in your neck and shoulder

her sticky sweet drool mixes with new smells

 

you try to imagine this is the place you live

your baby child oblivious of the world outside

her immediate view

encased in the husk of half sleep

her scent as known as your own

love me how big she mumbles into to your cheek.

 

A Cooper’s hawk flies over head, named for you

by the long sweep of its wings, the white tips of feathers

a predator you have seen before

you take refuge in its shadow

stretch your left arm wide like a bridge

girded between before and now

“This big,” you tell your daughter, “this big”

 

by Martha Catherine Brenckle

Martha Brenckle teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Central Florida. Publishing both poetry and fiction, sha has published most recently in Driftwood, The Sea Journal, Broken Bridge Review, Lost Coast Review, and New Guard Literary Review among others. In October 2000, she won the Central Florida United Arts Award for poetry. Her first novel, Street Angel, published in 2006 was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and a Triangle Award and was a Finalist for Fence Magazine’s Best GLBT Novel for 2006. Her short story, “Nesting Dolls” has been nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize.

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