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(“to life”)

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

One comment on “l’chaim, by Brett Warren

  1. Auntie Jan. says:

    Joe told me of your poem. I found it difficult because that wasn’t the brother I knew. But, you captured the profound essence of sad changes. You are amazing and I love you so. AJ


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