Glass Poetry Press

Volume Two Issue Two

Lauren Scharhag

Ash, Tallow, Candle, Flame, Soap

Ice scabs the black roads, the hills impassable old houses overlook the Bottoms become pedestaled offerings to the wind stomping down power lines so they fall arcing and hissing into slush. Porches bared like teeth, white with frost Vacated glider-swings slumber in tool sheds amid folded lawn chairs and stone-empty flower pots. Today, no commuters tread the sidewalks intent on bus stops, nor do we. Inside the house, in the middle of the block, brass oil lamps' Satan-red glass haunt the piano back, though no one in the family plays. After grandpa died we found rats nesting in the hammers. Old woman lights with a bit of newspaper the gas stove in a close kitchen melts down lard to fry supper. The furnace a mammoth dominating middle-room of the shotgun layout by the bed Orange-blue glow ugly but familiar demon-face flaked pig iron where in the morning we will heat our clothes up on its hot top to take the sting out of having to rise from the nest of blankets and bodies into the chill dawn. The old woman lights off the stove burner a cigarette and sits frozen despite the writhing heat while around her the children strip off their sweaters and surreptitiously crack windows, breaking off icicles to lick a crumbling statue contemplating innumerable wrongs until the forgotten ash flakes onto dressing gown flannel. A smaller heater in the dark bathroom lower blue witches' glow A tiny string of white-orange seed beads opalescent base beside which we scrub off shivering in the tub, the old soap gray after knowing so many bodies. Before bed, we will light candles and put on socks, so many saints, saintly robes crowns tears exposed hearts all in gothic leaded stained glass colors of flame and shame as we drift off listening to our grandmother's voice whispering nursery rhymes stories psalms They merge in our heads and we go into the world aware. You can burst into song or burst into flame but if ever you see our lights go out know that all is safe and still and we'll be whistled clean so long as we have flesh and tallow, ash, smoke, candles, soap.