Anna Birch

Selecting the poster

Maybe this waterfall, 

two banks for trees, 

quiet in the distance, air and light, 

some fake picture of God’s country. 


Mute, you have no input 

on the image you'll see 

before you die, 

the one we'll tack to the 

flimsy ceiling above your bed 

at Aurora Senior Living.


Already you gaze above us,

beyond us, as we lean down 

into your face, flat

from the morphine, to search 

your eyes for memories, for what?


You’d prefer a pin-up girl, 

no doubt, but we look 

for something a baby would like— 

strong solid shapes

that pass the squint test,

lit branches, sun, sky,

coming through to something, 

an opening. 

 

At the hospice meeting, 

nurses talk 

of choking protocols, 

obituary, cremation, 

brain donation. 

And sure, by all means, 

a poster would be nice. 


Burning The Lumber

We’ve gone from ten back-yard piles to six, 

now four, soon none. Making room 

for tree swings, cordwood, bicycle racks, gardens— 

My sister sweats, back and forth from the piles 


to the bonfire in new shock-red work gloves,

pitches the boards one by one into the flames. 

I rush out when I see smoke over the sheds. 

But we’ve been through this already, I’ve agreed to this. 


My brother busies himself elsewhere, 

can’t witness the wasted work, the cost, 

like rotten seed packs, 

never planted, never bloomed. 


Our father milled these boards on a diesel-run sawmill 

behind the orchard woods the year he and my mother split. 

He slept in a cobbled cabin set on blocks— 

water in jugs, awkward visits, disintegration. 


Twenty years and the lumber 

has gone to the skunks, chipmunks

and beetles. A house unbuilt, 

a raft never launched into the back pond. 


Boards with the ridged etchings of the blade

so I will remember that he made them—

pushed the blunt logs through the mill

imprinting them- his mark. 


My mother keeps a small pile for a raised bed, 

someone holds back the curly maple.  

In the urgent burning rush,

I race my sister, drag a few pieces aside.


Swallows hasten over pines and hemlocks.

Ashes set off from the blaze, 

burning sky lanterns 

pulled into the wind. 



Two poems for my father Joseph T. Birch 1943-2019 


Anna Birch is a writer and artist living in Hollis, NH, where she shares her ancestral home in with her husband, son and extended family. In addition to writing, she teaches art to youth and adults. Since studying poetry at UNH, she has been an active part of the NH poetry community for many years, participating in various school programs, workshops, and readings, including as a member of Portsmouth’s City Hall Poets since 1995. She is currently working on a memoir and a book of poems. www.ArtbyAnnaBirch.com.

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