by Gillian Cummings
No trinket, no bauble, no tinging bell
lures them out of their lair to safe home,
safe harbor outside the narrow gate, no
lollipop or ostrich. They know in this
light trees have auras like squid, secrets
taste like a railroad’s wish to lead nowhere
and its station rides home with tiny horses
on its lap where today’s paper would dye
the tired stalls to snow-smudge of desire.
The world is burning, burning—golds, golds,
red, red—color shreds fall even in this log-laid
hall of buried banter: they breathe its smoke-
braids and want to weave through their hair
witch-hazel, wintergreen, whitethorn berries.
They’re afraid of the hunter’s moon, its over-
bite on the dark bread of memory, how love
is what leaves do to flame when a baked apple’s
better unrounded and the barn holds buckets
in its oven—crisped raisins, cinnamon sprinkle,
maple poured—so Littlest asks, Do you want to play
beast with me? and Oldest bests, I am sleeping
like a babe under a hatchet, while Tongue-Tied
doesn’t guess hell, says of the dead, They go
to pepper, to parrots, to peace, no release in these skies
for the loneliest bird—until Cross-Eyed begs,
Pretty-please for a merry-go-round tiny horses can ride.
And the moon-pearl pulls them wayward
and wild out of the singe-scent of sin
Gillian Cummings is the author of My Dim Aviary, chosen as the winner of the 2015 Hudson Prize from Black Lawrence Press and forthcoming in November 2016. Her poems have appeared in Boulevard, the Crab Orchard Review, The Cream City Review, The Laurel Review, The Paris-American, in other journals and in the anthology Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke (Tupelo Press, 2013). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence.