Two Poems

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

 

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Bedding Down

As we winter readied the garden I discovered
the peppers root bound, nurtured to death
in plastic Dixie cups by my husband to foil cut worm.
Success. No cut worm this year. No jalapeno.

Even in death the thick vines pricked me, made
my skin itch as I reeled the last one in, fifteen feet
of stem and finally the dark bobber, an acorn squash
the size of my skull, beautiful and tasteless.

I yank dead-headed zinnia stalks up two handed,
bang their root balls against the rabbit fence.
Snap arms into spears for him, stakes for her,
more kindling for the quiet fires.

Marigold and broccoli the last couple to leave
paradise. Rusted fence between them all they have
and to hold, the tangled leggy one hanging on,
the stout green bush of gas.

___

Smell of Burning

When I watched the curbs smolder in the fall,
hypnotized by flames and fathers standing by
in smoky cardigans with rakes and cigarettes
or when I fed the fireplace anything to learn
what it would not consume and buried the ashes
of my knowledge, I did not realize I was an acolyte
of fire. I could not admit the visits from Prometheus
in the night or the slow ember that began to burn.
Heat I vowed would not affect me. I learned to turn
my food without a spatula, wear sweaters all summer,
fan churning in the winter bedroom. Ice was safe.
We could stand on it, build shanties and live. Nothing
like the flame which is and is not, that taunts the air
with orange mother tongue, pupil in the wick.

 
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Elizabeth Kerlikowske teaches at Kellogg Community College and writes in a tree house high in the spruces of lower Michigan. She grew up chapped and cold from the weather and water; nothing felt better than flannel, fire and coffee. She kayaks with her husband, a fisherman.