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Burning the Sage

ISSUE:  Autumn 2002

she couldn’t sell the house
for what she paid for it
they paid for it, him
back in New Jersey, not caring
how long it took to tie
up the loose ends of twenty years,
the enormous kite tail undulating
in the fierce wind of recent memory
and the taxes were due
again and his liver was failing
and no one to bribe to bump him up
the transplant list so he had all
the sympathy going for him,
dialysis a ploy, she thought
bitterly, chastising herself
immediately as she cut the thick
woody stalks of sage from her
neighbor’s garden, the soon-to-be-former
neighbor (she hopes) who threatens
to buy the house herself if she
comes down far enough, and she
clutches the bouquet of spongy
overwhelming scent and dries it
in her oven, hangs it upside
down to burn—it smells like pot,
her and him passing a joint
in their tiny apartment in Brooklyn,
and incense at the funeral mass
for her senile father, and she begins
to dance through the empty rooms,
tears dropping madly to the bare wood,
almost echoing—soon enough the sage
has burned itself out, and she wipes her eyes,
thumb and index finger gliding over
her eyelids to the corners, and down,
and she breathes into her hands,
where the scent is strongest.


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