“ASH” by Mary Ann Honaker


She’s by the fireside.  Beyond,

darkness deep and cool as wellwater.

Thick log in hand, she coaxes fire

out of white ashes, amber coals.


She says, Of course I still love him

but.  Young mother, engaged to marry

next summer, speaking of

her former lover–


I’ve got a mug I brought from home.

Bitter thick brown ale

by the keg.  She turns her back

to the flames, the only light here,


and her face is dark when she says, but, but.

You don’t understand what he’s like.

She’s right, I don’t, but I do

understand it shouldn’t take


so damn much explaining.

She gives up, sighs, stares

into the rustling night.  Later

my lover is apologetic


for bringing up the old flame.

We stand under porchlight

beside the keg, swat mosquitoes,

whisper.  She shouldn’t get married,


I say.  It’s too much for a person

split in two.  He hops from foot

to foot, clutching his nervous beer.

When I glance up to meet his eyes


they are, like mine, damp with pity.

I imagine the former lovers’

chance meeting by the dry fountain,

filled with the papery music of autumn leaves.


He, the poet, clutching a tattered bag

of songs written for her.

She, the mother, holding another’s

baby son upon her hip.


I can’t hear what they say.

I don’t know if she should or shouldn’t.

I only know you can’t build a fire

when your kindling is already ash.


Mary Ann Honaker holds a B.A. in philosophy from West Virginia University, a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Paralegal Certificate from North Shore Community College. She has previously published poetry in Harvard’s The Dudley Review, Crawlspace, Gold Dust, Dappled Things, Hoi Polloi, The Foliate Oak, The Gloom Cupboard, Euphony, Caveat Lector, Dark Sky Magazine, The Pennon, Spark, Off the Coast, and Zig Zag Folios. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

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