It felt like hate every time I passed by
charred cotton-candy branches
where my father went tree to tree
in his yard reached up with a click-lighter
to set caterpillar nests on fire.
I renamed it anger at circumstance
at life at what he had become
when a bird fell down his chimney
righted itself perched on the grate
eyes bright as onyx beads.
He couldn’t figure out what to do
so he beat it to death with a brass-
handled fireplace poker.
If he had called me
I would have come with my net.
Whatever I named it whatever the cause
in a corner of my heart I carried
and could not forgive the wound
a sickness that he would take
from the world these living things.
But I began to heal the night
we were packing for his last move
and a black mouse lit out
across the stained carpeting
like a fuse along the baseboard.
I had found and destroyed
the glue traps months ago.
I struggled to suppress a laugh
in the back of my throat
and stayed where I was kneeling
among papers and boxes
while something flickered
at the corners of my mouth
and branched out
with a giddy crackling
like a tree on fire.
Brett Warren received a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A long-time editor, her poetry has been published in Cape Cod Poetry Review, The Comstock Review, Green Fuse, Primavera, and Provincetown Magazine, and is forthcoming in Cape Cod & The Islands Magazine. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two blind cats.
© 2021, Brett Warren