Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Grasping at Ghosts

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She lights a stub of candle,
studies its slow burn and dissolve
into a brass bowl.
I watch her from the edge
of the kitchen.

             It was the crackling that woke us,
             roar of heat devouring cedar.
             I took her from her crib, fled
             down darkened stairs, out
             to cool lawn, cold moon.

Eleven now, her fingertips dart
through fire, some unspoken
rite of passage I learned
from my grandmother,
entrusted now to my daughter.

             Glass shattered as sirens
             whined past, unable to find us.
             Now open, our house
             sucked fire into its body,
             a phoenix igniting.

She tips the candle,
drips wax onto a napkin,
squeezes it between long fingers.
Her red hair flickers in the spit of light
as she shapes the cooling flesh.

             From ash we built again,
             exhumed bones and sooty reek,
             broken teeth of window, rusted nail --
             secrets of past fires rising
             to the surface.

I stand in the kitchen a while longer
before telling her Enough is enough.
She sighs,
blows out the tiny flare,
grasping at the trail of passing ghosts.


Ronda Broatch lives in Kingston, Washington, with her husband. They have two children, Fiona, 11, and Duncan, 9, both of whom are writers of poetry and short stories. Her work has been published in The Atlanta Review, Exhibition Magazine, Pontoon 6: An Anthology of Washington State Poets, Raven Chronicles, Literary Mama, and Poetry on Buses, in Seattle. Other pieces are forthcoming in Calyx, and the anthology The Human Growth Experiment. Ronda was a winner in the 2003 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest, and was awarded a residency for 2004 to the Soapstone Writer’s Retreat for Women. Her poem “Grace Baking” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2003).


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