Lucien Darjeun Meadows

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.

Lucien Darjeun Meadows was raised in West Virginia. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Hayden’s Ferry Review and Quarterly West, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won an Academy of American Poets Prize and the AWP Intro Journals Project. He is currently an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

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