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The Early Flames

ISSUE:  Winter 1989
We are shivering this April,
huddled at the early flames
the backyard barbecue flicks
in the rag-tag gray gusts
still shaking the pines
where all the girls gather,
little skirts sudden, a swirl
like petals the ditch mouth
can’t take away, not yet,
and snow spits trying to break
the will of the sun’s slats
so broad and quick these
giggles seem more bold than
buds unaware how the times
could be better. They are
no trouble yet but loam-fist
coals can sputter, spark when
you least expect it. Still
birthdays won’t wait no
matter the weather. They
bring us the dog, nameless,
hungry as love’s tongue
lolling one face to another,
like time, and mud on a nose
that whines up the gray air.
The fat round burgers sizzle.
Each body in the joint brings
a bundle of words to say why
we’re here, to remember
the day everything stopped
so breath could begin. Each
dogwood’s a bridesmaid
in lace white as pond ice.
All the first fruits are
nippling the limbs, no worms
yet. The day dims to a simmer
of ashes when every face
bends into the black and eats
until who’s who isn’t known,
just the season’s little
ladies slipping away, one
door after another, smeared,
swollen, at home, leaving
us with pictures, with darkness
clawed and whining to get in.


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