Monday, January 1, 2007

Swedish Christmas Bread

Because he was a neighbor, Mother said.
The wind flapped her skirt around her knees.
She tottered slightly on the icy snow.
Still, she kept her grip on the foil-wrapped package.

He was unshaven, dogs around his legs.
He took the package, heavier than it looked.
Sweet dough, dense with raisins and walnuts.

In the morning, they blamed the kerosene heater,
tipped by a careless foot, or a dog’s tail.
As the school bus chugged past the rubble,
every face turned to watch the smoke.

But I, only I knew that the man whose ashes
still smoldered beneath the blackened beams
had died with the taste of honey on his tongue.

Cheryl Gatling

published in Gingko Tree Review

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