Prairie Fire - - MICHAEL RUSSELL -

Daugh­ter of hard labour

& Catholic cross. Mother of son & son.

Pro­tec­tor of two gen­tle stars.

When I ask to talk—you turn your head

& smile, drop ev­ery­thing, wait for me

to fill the si­lence as though it were an empty bucket.

My words are slow. They crawl out of my mouth

like crabs un­til they don’t. But you are pa­tient.

You wait un­til my lips are ready, un­til my tongue is ready

to spill the inkjet of what could be noth­ing,

of what could swell like blood in wa­ter.

You wait for me to say it—I am gay.

Your face does not change, it is soft as dusk.

When I was a child you’d hold me, word­less & now you hold me, word­less.

If my gay­ness was a hu­man

he’d be a young adult by now & you would hold him, word­less.

You would cook for him, make him feel like food was a bea­con

of home. Mother of grain. Daugh­ter of soil.

You would make him a bed of wool & goose feath­ers

& kiss him good­night. Fire fairy, wood sprite.

When I couldn’t tell you—I felt my­self fold­ing in,

col­laps­ing in­ward like a build­ing be­ing torn down.

What I’m do­ing is called third-de­gree heal­ing.

The scald­ing patches of heart ex­posed

to fires I’m not even sure are fires.

You hold my shoul­ders & look me in the eyes.

My eyes do not stray to your lips as they usu­ally do.

I re­al­ize, like me, you are a child of a child of a child

who has had to un­learn ha­tred

for the self.

June bug. Mother of all that is good.

I tell you I am ter­ri­fied of what’s to come,

that my body is burst­ing at the seams

with gar­dens of joy & I don’t know how to manage.

You say to me: smell the flow­ers,

pick a few veg­eta­bles

& make sure to al­ways come home.

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