Birthday Is a Time for Burning
Open and uncurtained, my Aunt A’s new windows
face the field that leads to Grandmother’s house.
At night, A wakes every other hour, sometimes
already by the windows, watching. I never know
if Mom’s house will still be standing. Across the field
of pine trees and overgrown onion grass,
Grandmother is sleepwalking again. Last week,
she made a two-tier cake for A’s birthday,
red velvet and buttercream, forty white candles—
but in the night, she lit the candles, put the cake
back in the oven, turned it to broil. The smell,
the smell. She woke from a dream of July bonfires,
gas oven aflame, screaming—my aunt heard,
grabbed her fire extinguisher ready by the door,
ran down. She will never surrender that house.
A hot wind rattles pine needles over the porch,
where we three sit, brittle clumps. They fan
over our feet in patterns, spiral of candles.