Poem | A Bough Falls

(Natalia Tabarez/Unsplash)

Cut loose, betrayed by air it lands
like a lost gift on silent
indifferent earth until found

by a man of faith in an afterlife,
perhaps a priest in his black cassock
who later in a lonely rectory marries

imperfect oak to bundled kindling.
His match, a splinter of grace,
sparks petals of persistent light

into bloom and spreads healing
heat while wood whispers
like an angel in the quiet night.

Isn’t fire just another prayer offered
to cure the darkness in time?
But every clock winds down

and wood turns to ash, and air
in the chimney chokes
on its smoke. The priest believes

that only when a soul is freed
from its body, like vapor
from the charred log, will it rise.

Published in the May 2022 issue: 
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Gary Stein’s Touring the Shadow Factory won the Brick Road Poetry Press annual competition in 2017. His chapbook, Between Worlds (Finishing Line, 2014), was a contest finalist. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Folio, Penn Review, the Atlanta Review, and the Asheville Poetry Review. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, co-edited Cabin Fever (The Word Works, 2004), and has taught creative writing in high schools and colleges.

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