When I return to the cabin, our dog runs to greet me.
Separated for nine months—long enough to bring new life
into the world—I pat his head but don’t hug you. I don’t want you
to move to the mountains, you say. Let’s take a walk. But halfway
to the road, I notice dead branches on the dogwoods and stop
to snap them. You break the bigger boughs until there’s a gap
through the thicket. Then we move to the pines, breaking brittle
limbs with dry, brown needles, our hands sticky with sap. Our dog
is bored with us and retreats to the porch while we labor until it’s too
hot to continue. Enough wood for a bonfire, I say, recalling the night
we torched a dead Christmas tree, drinking white wine and dancing
around the leaping blaze and the dark morning I burned your love
letters in a metal trash can outside, drunk and weeping, liar! liar!
liar! as your false words folded into flames. You laugh, crack the last
branch from the trunk, and say, You always loved playing with fire.
Beth Copeland is the author of three full-length poetry books: Blue Honey, recipient of the 2017 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize (The Broadkill River Press 2017); Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVOX books 2012); and Traveling through Glass, recipient of the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award (Bright Hill Press 2000). Her poems have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies and have been featured on international poetry websites. She has been profiled as poet of the week on the PBS NewsHour website. Beth lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she owns and runs Tiny Cabin, Big Ideas™, a retreat for poets, writers, and artists.
Monarch-wing bonfire illustration by C.B. Auder.