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,
At the hospice meeting,
of choking protocols,
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. .