The slag pile is house-high.
We’ve added to it all year, the snags
from the deep wood and dead leavings
culled from job sites, empty fields,
the broken boards, apple crates
and chair legs, boxes of junk mail
and photos we can’t stand to look at.
The neighbors gather to light the pyre,
add their own last minute ends,
and stay to tend the burn all day.
It smogs the highway, thick smoke
lingering in the wallows, devils colluding
with the wind to strike each of us,
weeping silently.

We sit together
mending our various brokennesses—
rent nets and birdhouses, hard words,
long oiled, brought to light—
before the ground hardens.
This is the season to bed down
the heart, leave it to itself
and its weaving. What will be
on the other side of the thaw?
A precious thought passed by
as one of us reaches out
to sass the coals snarling
in their sooty beds, a tongue
flaming, hidden in the ashes.

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