This imperfect story was birthed at the same time as SASA, (2021).
On and off over the past months, I’ve tried to straighten it’s bowed legs and repair the hairlip and twisted spine. But in the end, I decided that it was at it’s best in it’s original imperfect form, and so I’m sharing it with you, as is. I hope you can find some worth despite the flaws.
There is fire, molten, red hot magma,
scorching through her veins.
Streams of shivering white-blue fire,
and her heart is the flame.
She hides it from the wind,
the sky, and even from the stars,
but underneath her lush beauty
there’s a smouldering ball of fire.
She lets the sunshine charm her,
whispers promises to the night,
but beneath her dewy petals
is a seething, steaming pyre.
Betray her as the sky did,
dig holes into her sand.
You’ll part her tangled branches
and feel her searing hand.
There’s a molten fire churning,
red hot glowing flow,
with form and curve and shape,
under the hard, worn polished stone.
Mothers have daughters. Better they had sons.
Daughters are not for everyone.
-Never gonna be like my mother! Ina Fey used to say.
-Old-fashioned, old woman, always hidden away.
-The fire inside,
her mother would say,
-Is a burning my chile you must learn to restrain.
And for years Ina thought it was all child’s play.
Until puberty came.
And the fire became more than an itch.
And she had to change her mantra, just a bit,
after she slipped out one night, and the shadows enticed her.
Then she understood.
Then she felt, as instinct,
why it had to be a secret.
After that, Ina roamed the shadowy nights,
enjoying the freedoms of untethered flight,
and the shadows and darkness and the quiet.
Glad for the mortar her mother left her to keep me in.
Then, one evening, in a rage,
Ina got bold. Cold vengeance for a betrayal.
And craven, angry, and full of spite,
she flew to where the betrayer lay,
Safe in bed, in the still of night.
And eased her way under a windowpane
Crept softly under a door,
sneaked to the bed, and on impulse,
bled her rival!
And that was the night she recognised,
revenge and spite had a taste that she liked.
And she decided
not to be like
the careful, restrained mother she remembered.
And night after night
sought out others to violate,
to take her fill of that singular taste.
Ina sits in front of the large mirror.
Through the window
the setting sunlight catches her cheeks
Could have been a model they used to say.
And even she can see,
after all these years,
Still handsome enough to be a distraction.
That’s why she looks after me so well.
Appreciates hiding her warmth inside my shell.
I know, she used to long, long ago,
to bare herself to the day.
Longed to recklessly brave the blaze of the sun.
And at those times she considered me a hindrance.
Reminding her of her mother’s restrictions. Her mother’s curfews and warnings, and intolerance.
And she’d leave me in the mortar as late as she dared,
Until I could feel the air
And smell the brack of char and ash.
Until braying like an ass,
she’d resentfully shrug me on again,
to pass the pain.
Not anymore though. She accepts our fate
and is very considerate.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot.
Found out that there are counterparts.
Not always sure of the terms they use, and sometimes get a bit confused.
Like, I’ve heard talk of skin-walkers,
But I’m not sure what they mean.
I think it must be much, much more
than just the way the words seem.
And I’ve heard them sing praises for shedding your skin,
which to me is as obvious as string.
Like how a snake slips off its coat
when it gets too small for him.
And of course, I understand about saving your skin,
she’s done it for all this time.
Saved me in a mortar for a while,
and once in an enamel tin,
until she found the cotton box,
the box to save me in.
But sometimes they say, get under your skin,
and believe me, that’s not a joke.
If something, like… salt, say, gets under there…
Well, you want to be alert.
But to make your skin crawl,
now, that is some gall,
a bitter and brackish betrayal.
And I’m glad she doesn’t go in for that kind of talk.
I am her skin.
I am her protection. I keep her warm and I cool her down.
In me she hides her embers when her night journeys are done.
So when she lays me safely, in my narrow wooden bed,
I know she’ll come back to me,
whatever’s in her head.
She has to…
She has to….
I’ve said too much.
She adores me, I’m sure.
Oils me with shea butter and vetiver. Sits at the mirror,
and for long moments just gazes at me with looks of admiration.
Touches me gently,
careful not to bruise,
and makes sure I’m nourished
and yes, sometimes, feeds me a drop or two
Blood red cherries, I mean,
that pop in my mouth.
And I feel what she feels.
Know what she knows,
and even lying in my bed, I see
what she sees when she’s on the prowl.
Yes. She loves me, I think. Recognises what I afford her.
Brown skin. Smooth still.
Even toned and blemish free,
a few faint lines, but considering the times,
nothing you could really see.
And of course I offer safety.
-You look like a princess, the little girl said at the shop. -A beautiful princess.
And yes, in the city we heard those compliments too,
So she knows we won’t have problems starting afresh, starting anew.
A bit older maybe, but much more astute.
So now she can scoff at the memory of that old woman.
The old crow in the city who somehow knew,
and stood outside our door one afternoon,
and said the word.
And swore the day would come. When Ina would get her due.
Yes, now she can dismiss
the memory of counting the rice,
that night she almost got caught.
The night she thought
she’d take care of the old crow,
but the car lights forced her
to drop, and crawl
behind old bins.
And security lights blazed on
and made her shrink
And she can pretend it wasn’t so,
that when she got to the old crow’s nest,
she found rice,
on the windowsill.
And the spell of the rice, that she thought was all lies,
trapped her, held her fast in its vice.
And she can happily disregard
what luck she’d had,
when the skinny black cat
jumped from a fence and hissed.
And believe me,
if it wasn’t for that cat,
that night could have been the end of us.
And the meddling old crow,
hanging out her window,
throwing salt, and cursing.
And even threatening to hunt me down.
And as Ina flees, the neighbours look out,
switch on their lights and call.
-There! There! A ball of fire. A ball of fire!
And Ina flies, streaks home
and hides for weeks
even from the shadows.
Yes. She feels safe now, in this smaller town.
The one she said she’d grown out of.
She’s got something new in her head.
Instead of the bitter old crow,
she ponders on how her mother spoke
of lightning birds.
Lightning birds, from long ago,
like a vulture or a carrion crow
Savage at heart, but under her control.
Lightning birds, without thunder or storm.
And Ina has set her sights on acquiring a pair
or something close enough.
Aggie and Christina.
Aggie was her friend first.
They met when they were at school.
Aggie introduced her to her first love,
but it was Christina who told her he was untrue.
And though they plotted to destroy him,
they never followed through.
So, Ina took matters into her own hands,
and it wasn’t long before news
went round that he needed transfusions.
Only then did Ina smile again,
but over time a restlessness grew.
Until she met Mr Pettigroo.
And though Aggie warned her that he was married;
it didn’t matter.
She knew her love was true.
And believed when he said his marriage
was all but over soon.
She told Christina how she loved him.
Told Aggie it was love’s fate.
And when he had to return to the city
We followed him all that long way.
And we know how that all ended.
That was the past.
Now, grey clouds gloom the afternoon and Ina sits listless and alone.
The evening is slow
and the drizzling rain, like stomach pains,
hangs heavy on her soul.
She wants lightning birds to come and play,
to grow some wings and flap round her face.
She needs their attention to overcome
that lasts for days and days
My box remains closed. Her spirit is low, curled under the blanket of damp.
-What about me? She moans. -Motherless. Motherless and alone.
She won’t be taking me off tonight,
she’ll do as her mother did,
and stay inside.
Hide in me,
Her restlessness stirs in her chest.
She casually strokes my chin.
She shakes her head,
but I already know
I’ll stay on again.
In the city,
before the last days,
before the threats of the crow,
she had loved the challenge of the sparkling lights.
Loved to play in the narrow shadows.
Delighted in ducking down alleys,
flying along quiet canals,
sliding up the sides of tower blocks,
so many windows to enter,
a buffet of victuals.
She was strong,
And she loved me then too, to present to him.
Happy to keep me on.
Tried to resist her urges and reject sunset for dawn.
But month after month,
became year after year,
and she felt smothered and faded,
and in anger
decided the time had come
to tear Pettigroo from his wife.
The boring wife,
the controlling wife,
the wife who made life difficult.
And she flew through the night,
to his home,
and slipped under his bedroom door.
And then, night after night,
for a month of nights
siphoned the wife’s blood,
Left her weak and with bruises
and made sure it pained her.
And found pleasure, in the clandestine game,
and felt revitalised
in her unfettered flame.
And when in the end,
the poor wife was dead,
and we were still barred from the marital bed,
she turned all her fury and cravings on him.
And by the time she was through,
he was barely a shadow
of the man she had once seduced.
And she felt free,
and really believed
she was doing better than her mammy had done.
Until of course that night, the night with the rice and the angry, old woman.
In front of the mirror, she touches my eyebrows.
The arc’s just right.
Dabs colour on my lips, not a surprise.
Soft gold on my eyelids. Yes, she knows I’m still fine,
even if the charcoal-stiff shoulders stoop sometimes.
She’s indoors and alone, so what is she to do?
-Get used to it. Her mother’s voice echoes in her ears.
And she stares at my reflection and touches my forehead.
But she never has managed to get used to it.
And now she’s determined to have them.
Make Aggie and Christina her lightning birds,
drag them from their cosy nests.
-Don’t worry sisters, she whispers.
She’s fashioned a place for you.
A space you’ll share to talk of past times and new.
A mansion of things for her lightning birds;
to keep you in her sight.
You’ll fill the echoes in the air.
You’ll hear her tears, and whisper at her frights.
You’ll talk her through the empty days,
and console her on those wet grey nights.
You’ll extol her virtues, and her wisdom,
her strength, and good advice.
You’ll soothe the strain of this reduced,
restrained and quieter life.
Ina reaches under the bed.
-Ah box, she says and pulls it out.
She got it a long time ago.
She thought it might be too big when she got it,
but when she laid me in, I fit.
And when she looked down at me, that first night,
it was like I was a gift.
As if she could finally see,
how beautiful I was, really.
And just how important that beauty.
And how well it suited her needs.
Mmm. The smell. Thick and ashen and red. Let the dance go ahead. We’ll play a game instead.
Light the incense.
Light the candles too.
Light the lamp.
Fire surround you.
And when the wind passes,
the shadows dance.
Flick her scarf and move her hand.
there a tree,
and there a house,
and there the candle light.
A tail of burning phosphorus,
curling, and gliding, above the residence.
A shift and a shadow and there, the bird dives.
The curtains roll and the flame hides.
Hide and seek.
Hide and seek.
Creeps along and enters the house.
Hide and seek.
Hide and seek.
And here… here, the jewel box is a bed.
And the flame creeps up,
right up close to your head,
and whispers, whispers in your ear.
Sou sou, Sou,
A scarlet pin-prick.
One drop of blood. One drop of blood.
Another night of simpering rain.
On nights like this,
she feels the strain as if she’s down a deep well.
The candles and scarfs,
and mirrors, hold no charms.
Company is all that can help.
The lightning birds will come, bringing chatter and red wine.
They’ll provide a girl’s night in,
to lift her chin and steady her despondent decline.
She readies herself for laughter and food.
Silk pyjamas in patterns of gold and blue.
Touch of gloss, foundation, liner too.
They’ll say how good she looks,
even when she’s not in the mood.
Hurry sisters. Come right in.
-All you need is a girl’s night in.
they sit and listen
to the horns and strings
Devour the skeletons dragged out of storage
of the men who blighted their lives
and trampled their pride
The men who dismantled their hearts,
till all their parts rattled
like dried peas in an empty tin.
-We need each other,
Christina, the ninny says.
And they sip and laugh and hug and cry.
-He doesn’t understand the years,
-The years we have together.
The tears we’ve shed for each other.
And Ina lifts a slender leg, drapes it over the armchair.
-Oh sisters, she drawls.
-You have to understand.
Weakness is in their bones,
flowing in their veins,
sweating out their pores.
They’re just men and we’re more
than just friends.
truer than they could ever be.
-We’ve been through so much together, Aggie agrees.
And Ina smiles. And they hug. And they cry.
-But he loves me, Christina, whines.
-That’s what he said.
-And that’s the hook they use
to keep us in their beds.
They sip, they sigh, they laugh,
even dance with their glass of wine.
And the darkness lifts,
so slowly lifts
and the silence of the early light
promises a cloudless sky.
And now, there they lie,
on soft cushions,
side by side.
-They’re mine, Ina whispers to herself.
And steps over them to pull the box out
from under her bed.
A new night comes. Her plan goes ahead.
She lays the cotton box gently on her bed.
And humming very tenderly, opens it with care.
Then she begins
like easy stitches,
unbinds the seams.
Pulls me off so daintily,
like a too tight slip,
or a snakeskin.
Hips swing and sway, to ease me carefully down.
It really doesn’t hurt,
I slip past her shoulders,
her belly and then her thighs.
Past her knees, skim her calves and slide,
to the ground, folding like silk
soft hide with barely a sound.
And she’s free.
The dance of her flames
shakes on the walls
in the yellow candlelight.
Stretching up almost as tall,
almost as beautiful as I am.
And now the slightly tricky part.
And that’s how I know her heart.
She moves with care and tenderness
as she softly prepares to depart.
Takes some skill to lay me out, and barely singe the wood.
She dips her head and her streak of red
rockets out the window.
Like an Eagle sees the twinkling night.
Laid spread out before her.
The pricks of light grid the roads,
point out where Aggie’s house lies.
Like the barrel of rum her mother had described,
burning in the fields that particular night.
But the wind is too chill
to ride up the hill,
so she sneaks along the alleyways instead.
Hugs the walls and windowsills,
enjoying the shadows and remembered thrill
of when she stalked the metropolis.
And there, Aggie’s door,
with the brass handle and knocker.
And darkness behind the closed blinds.
She spits, she shrinks and sparks just a bit
round the key,
as she slides inside.
And silently as you sleep,
up the stairs she creeps,
and under your bedroom door she slips.
And flutters to your bed.
And is that him?
These skinny arms and skinny legs,
soft like risen bread?
Don’t worry sister, she’s chosen you,
you’ll belong to her instead.
She’ll prise you free of your complacency,
and this lumbering slumbering
One drop of blood.
One drop of blood,
heat breathing on his chest.
One drop of blood.
One drop of blood.
Steals the spirit from his breath.
Her shadow swirls like smoke or mist.
She slips back out,
Today she feels strong, more like her old self.
She’s confident. It’s going well.
She stands undressed in front of the tall mirror,
bare shoulders bronzed in lamp light.
I’m scrubbed clean and towelled dry,
she sighs at signs of passing time
and smooths a faint line.
her diamonds wink
as her fingertips
with a light upward gesture,
across the chin,
and delicately across the eyes.
Skim the forehead to the hair line.
Steady and slow.
Always by candlelight.
Always best in candlelight.
A spray of perfume behind the ear.
-A bit of scent to sweeten your bed.
Then raises the brush to brush my hair.
She looks and looks
and then lightly traces
the contours of my face.
Of late, it seems, she watches me with an air of faint distaste.
Fingertips follow the line of my lips,
my nose, and my eyelids.
Then delicately slip beneath my scalp.
And slowly push, and steadily peel.
And as I fall away
her fire is revealed, released.
In the mirror her reflection flickers, but not too bright.
She flaps and breathes, and the curtains shake
as she launches herself onto the night.
She’s got them now,
her lightning birds.
Aggie and Christina are now all hers.
And it was so much easier than Ina had planned.
Christina’s lover lost his job.
And she earned so much more than him.
It didn’t take long to split them up.
A few whispers in her ear.
A sou-sou here, a sousou there.
Implications, condemnations, recriminations.
And that was the back of him.
And hugging Christina as Christina cried, Ina’s eyes smouldered
just a bit.
Still, it was almost a year, about ten months,
before she convinced Aggie of her unhappiness.
And it was partly thanks to the predictable husband
and his past illicit affair.
And when Aggie finally
insisted he leave,
Ina was there,
to offer comfort and words of wisdom,
and ensure Aggie stayed rid of him.
And she celebrated with Aggie at the old fire pit,
as Aggie burned all his memories and sentimental gifts.
At last, at last
Aggie and Christina were free to be with her
massages and spending sprees,
holiday trips and parties.
And Ina was almost happy.
But not now,
so many months,
so many lunches and shopping trips later,
Bedroom to sitting room and back again.
Stops at the mirror. Turns,
strides away and then stalks back.
Stops and doesn’t move.
I can still command a room, if that’s what she wants me to do.
But it feels like this time she wants something else.
Turns sideways and touches the shoulder scar,
where charcoal callouses have left a mark.
And now she stares at my face, as if from a distance,
from far far away.
As if I’m a stranger.
As if I’m out of place.
And there’s something in her eye,
a squinting shine, as if she’s…
She spoke the other day of past times
when youth was her personal prize.
When promise of tomorrow was hers to realise.
And I know she’s thinking of the city and its flashing signs,
before we were marked with age and dust and lines.
Before the old woman forced her to acknowledge boundaries and rules,
reminded her of the stories her mother had told,
of the sugar barrel, and why they lived alone.
But we’re settled now. We got away.
She’s happy to rehabilitate.
Her lightning birds are trained.
She’s not unseen like her mother had been.
And she even prefers the darkness to city lights
so what more is there to gain?
I feel her spark and sizzle and simmer,
I haven’t a clue.
She looks at me as if looking for a truth.
No obvious wrinkles at the mouth or eyes.
No real sagging at the neck or chin.
So I don’t understand the source of her renewed restlessness.
There’s the source of her discontent.
Aggie’s daughter Steph.
Yes, Aggie has a daughter that Ina has just met.
Came over yesterday with her long loose hair
and short tight dress.
Youthful glow in her smooth round cheeks.
Skin unblemished and wrinkle free.
And Ina was entranced.
But look this way,
compared to me,
she’s so callow,
Twenty or twenty-three,
just done with university.
But that seems to be the appeal.
I have a bad feeling,
a certain sense of dread.
Ina stands before the mirror
dressed in flowing red.
There’s a glint in her eye,
and I’m starting to realise
what’s smouldering in her head.
She’s thinking of taking Steph’s skin
and leaving me behind.
It’s something her mother advised against,
but now it’s simmering in her mind.
I had a dream once, of things past and gone.
A dream of things wanted, with no regret that they were lost.
The other morning, she brought a new taste for me.
The flavour was sweeter than previously.
Sweeter than Aggie. Fresher than Christina,
and warmer than the taste of the husbands had been.
It was Steph of course.
Crisp and young like fresh cut cress.
Like lettuce and melons and tamarinds.
And Ina likes it.
Two nights ago, she peeled me off,
and laid me carelessly at the base of the box.
No clocks alarmed and yet she was back,
in half an hour flat.
She had glimmered and glowered in the corner for ages,
until the air was smoky and warm.
Until the sunlight had trickled through the curtains and burned me,
lying in the open box.
when she finally pulled me on again,
she tutted and cursed and sighed,
and yanked on a full, long skirt on
to hide the scar I had acquired.
She streaks through the night. Red flame flapping against the inky blue sky.
The sky she vowed she’d never rely on again.
She darts round the back, and up the side of the house,
scuttles like a rat, to a half-open window
and slides inside.
And there is the bed where Steph lies,
in deep, unguarded slumber.
And Ina’s flame glows as she glides
over the covers
and wraps flames around Steph
and strokes her hair,
caresses her hips, and lingers there.
Sluggish like a fog, clinging like a mist,
she lingers with what looks like genuine affection.
One drop of blood.
One drop of blood.
Her flame licks Steph on the neck.
One drop of blood.
One drop of blood.
Until finally she slips off the bed.
And returns home
and sullenly drags me on again.
I can feel the dryness of decay,
here in this box.
She hasn’t worn me in so many days.
Just left me here, in this box.
She’s hung heavy curtains to black out the daylight,
and left me in my bed for dark days and dark nights.
I can feel a tightness, and a constant ache.
A stiffness as I helplessly wait.
And I wonder.
I wonder what she can see,
when out the window she goes,
and returns with nothing for me.
Then the news comes.
And she pulls me on;
treats me the best she has in days,
powders me up, and creams my face.
Pulls on a scarf and a grey dress with white lace.
Christina, the ninny, is the first to say, -Steph’s in hospital, her health is failing.
And Aggie, the lightning bird, is cawing and clucking,
about her poor chick, who for no reason is suffering.
And Ina consoles her with a warm embrace.
Tells her, -Steph is strong and in the right place to get better.
Tells her, -Nobody dies from anaemia and blood pressure.
-And transfusions are easy, Christina, pipes in. -And these days they have those iron injections.
And Ina agrees,
sitting on Aggie’s bed,
patting Aggie’s hand
and nodding her head.
But I know what she’s done,
and feel what she feels,
and it isn’t concern,
it’s sizzling excitement.
She went out again, late last night. And I know where she went.
And when she came back, she was smug and confident,
flapping and flaring with pure delight,
casting the room in orange gold light.
And she laughed when she glanced at me in my box,
and pulled me on with an air of revulsion,
singeing my neck in her slovenly haste.
And she stood in front of the mirror, naked.
And carelessly lifted my dried out breast,
making it sag loosely on my chest.
And gracelessly laughed at my withered reflection,
curling her lip with open aversion.
And she stood there. Just stood there, not even seeing me.
Within a few weeks, poor Steph is dead.
Dress in black and rasp -Amen.
Stand in shadows and weep behind veils,
she was so young to just waste away.
We hustle through the sterile halls,
clip clop, clip clop, to the second floor,
And Aggie is there in deep distress,
moaning in Christina’s arms,
while nurses utter dour respects,
fingering stethoscopes like charms.
Steph is gone. Poor Steph is gone.
The room smells of pharmaceuticals and disinfectant.
Ina touches the lifeless hand.
The fine, young skin left behind.
Christina sniffs and Aggie cries.
Ina turns away to hide her eyes .
-What a shame.
What a waste, she simpers.
It’s night now. Black night. I might not make it to morning.
Before she left
Ina dragged me off with careless, thoughtless abandon.
Burnt my wrist in her agitated flames,
flared and blazed, as I fell away.
Glimmered, shimmered in the dusky gloom.
Sulphurous ash was my perfume.
And as I fell, folding, flop onto the ground,
before I even settled,
she was gone.
But I had caught one small drop,
so my sight is restored.
And I see her slide under the door
of room number one-four-four,
and crawl along the pale grey wall.
Soft murmurs in the dim lit dorm.
She creeps across the tiled board ceiling,
to where she thinks Steph’s body is lying.
Hangs above the tight closed drapes
unaware that she’s too late.
Stretches down, over the side table,
and reaches out as far as she’s able.
Flame flicking the tight grey covers
as if sniff, sniff, sniffing them all over.
But the only smell that I detect
is the smell of her disappointment.
The bed is empty, of course.
Like kindling thrown on a waning ember,
Ina swells and sparks and sputters.
Steph is not there. Her body’s been moved.
She didn’t stop to consider that, but I did.
Enraged, Ina flaps around the silent monitors,
fanning her flames in her frustration.
And the patient in the next bed turns and mutters.
But just as she wakes, Ina scuttles
away through the ventilation.
I know where she’s going, cause I know what she thinks,
but I know she doesn’t know what room it’s in.
Along the air vents, and down the back stairs,
she thinks the basement is where the morgue is.
It takes a long while, and if I could, I’d smile,
but she eventually finds where the dead bodies reside.
Is it too late?
The night is fading.
The sun is on the rise.
There’s a spider crawling across my eye
She’s left me on the floor
in the crumbs and the dust.
But she’s desperate.
Times running out.
She’s sparking and spitting, she’s feeling the strain.
The morgue is all metal drawers without any names.
She flashes past one drawer and slips into another,
but she doesn’t know, but I know, which one holds Steph’s cadaver.
I know, cause I saw when the nurse took the chart.
Room one-four-four to drawer thirty-one.
I saw and I noted, while Ina was distracted.
But she doesn’t heed me, I’m no longer attractive.
One drop of blood. One drop of blood.
Night will end and morning will come.
Slide into one draw, and dip into the next.
Frantically she looks.
If she doesn’t find it…
Tick, tock, tick tock, only one draw left.
It’s always the last one you would expect.
She’s raging round.
She’s burnt the bedhead and charred the floor.
She’s hissing and spitting, and breathing hard.
She’s scorched the curtains, and the day’s almost here.
If she wants to survive,
she’s going to have to wear me.
Or we both die.
Her anger blows smoke all around the room,
smothering everything in ash and soot.
She sparks, and a flame lights under the side table.
It catches light to the electric cable.
The bed goes up next and then the wood dresser.
The walls and the floor and the row of framed pictures.
She breathes on the mirror till the old frame cracks
and the glass drops and breaks in a scatter
of golden reflections.
Dust and ash blanket the room.
It’s getting so hot. And the sun will show soon.
The flames quickly spread
The heat withers my leg.
If she’s not careful
I’ll burn in the inferno
and the sunlight will burn her to dust.
She’s lost what she gambled, now there’s only on angle.
And just as the sun climbs
Up into the sky.
She yanks me back on.
And like a dull shadow
Limps quietly out
of the conflagration.
Now we live in a tiny old house.
Two rooms right at the edge of a small town.
She sells dried herbs to a market stall holder,
but never lingers long.
She’s weaker than she was before and limps and walks bent over.
It’s partly me, damaged and worn,
but it’s also her, defeated and miserable.
Our hair is grey now and thin on my head.
She always wears a scarf now and bows her weakened neck.
She seldom goes out, and she has no friends.
No one notices her as she dips her head.
She has just one small mirror
and in it she can see
that she’s more like her mother than she ever wanted to be.
She shuffles when she walks as if still in pain.
And yesterday she noticed charcoal calluses on her face.
I’ll never be like my mother, I remember she used to say.
But, no lightning birds and this unforgiving old age,
means she hides like her mother, and her only reprieve
is when she flies free of me, her shrunken cage.
Even then she’s careful not to be seen,
she doesn’t need anyone to notice her
-A ball of fire! A ball of fire!