The Burn Pile

by | Feb 7, 2012 | Poetry

From my back window
I watch an old babushka
outside her wooden house rake
the fallen leaves. Her yard is
from where a German Shepherd’s
incessant barking rises each night,
my thin walls, single-paned windows
not dense enough to keep sound out.
Eventually, she will ignite the pile,
but not before I watch her bring out
three more trash bags, rake the leaves
from the changing birch and maple,
the oak and horse chestnut six more times,
the leaves filling her fenced space
like a grave. One night, the barking
stops and I sleep, dreaming
I am the tree whose leaves are falling
on her pile, dreaming the woman
is clearing out her house: her old
wood furniture, wooden bowls,
her babushka scarves and hand-stitched
dresses, and adding them to the pile.
Then, her struggling with something
I can’t quite make out, like
burlap sacks full of days, struggling
with the recent ones, the heavy,
back-bending weight—when
she gets to the older ones, they
are smaller, easier to haul, whole Soviet
decades in small bags, until all that’s
left are the rags of her childhood, and she
lugs them as if she is not only
cleaning out a house but
an entire life. She drags out
something else, something vague,
unrecognizable, and light
as air—perhaps her todays and tomorrows.
In the morning, as I sip my coffee
after the long, steady sleep,
I stare from my window overlooking
her yard, the old woman struggling
to drag her dog out that isn’t moving,
putting it on the pile, or at least
to the side of it, as if she is planning
something big. She stands
there for several minutes, mouthing
a prayer, I guess, and then lights
a cigarette, smokes it slowly, like
it’s her last one, and throws it
on the dry leaves. They rise
like a geyser or a Phoenix, start
to burn like each and
every shell of a life on that pile
had one last wish: to feed
the flame. The smoke, engulfing
me in my own room,
is not white, but dark, dark
like blackbirds rising, the smoke
hiding the babushka, the sum
of her life counted in
its many thousands of wings.





Photo Soource:

About The Author

Timothy Kercher

Timothy Kercher’s manuscript “Nobody’s Odyssey” was recently selected as a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, and his translation of Besik Kharanauli’s long poem, “The Lame Doll,” is set to be published in the Republic of Georgia early next year. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of recent literary publications, including Crazyhorse, Versal, The Dirty Goat, VQR, Asheville Review, upstreet, Guernica, The Minnesota Review and others. He now lives in Kyiv, Ukraine with his wife and twin daughters.