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JoAnna Brooker

a hummingbird is trapped in the sunroom

it was our mother’s fault. a red apple feeder adjacent to a glass box, hidden by peonies, bee balm, salvia. a million aviaries perish annually from glass related catastrophes. her southern living fantasy was a translucent trap. the scene unfolds like clockwork—I hear the drum beat of my brother’s feet on the stairs. he yells my name. I stumble down, to see my sister whistling, waving a broom round a room wash with window. the hummingbird, a shivering feather, darts from one ceiling corner to another. we wince at the plink and stumble in its stride. my chest is a cello string as the vibrant chirp mutes with each false open space. I hide in the family room when the wings slump. next, the backbreaking fall onto cold marble. my brother stays. cradles the carcass gently into a marble box. as the sun splashes east fir our procession begins—my sister’s violin strums an Ashoken Farewell. my brother places the coffin in velvet soil. and my father recites the eulogy for another creature caught in our house of mirrors. where was the ritual when the man in blue cornered my mother in the sunroom? the police car by the basketball hoop stark against the grey. my father nurses a stack of paper, a soft “go upstairs” to the three of us as mother heaves charcoal creeks. pizza boxes were waiting on the daybed: our consolation prize for the crack in our mirror that would fracture our home. we knew how to perform grief like Shakespeare; yet, we were so green when the real thing knocked down our door.

a portrait of patience as the perfect grilled cheese

my mother would serve burnt grilled cheese for supper
her tongue clicked as she slapped red ceramic on the island
there you go
one side soggy and limp like diseased bread pudding
the other—coal black from where it’d been left to burn

I’d proclaim gratitude from the tongue as I shoveled limp
biscuits down my gullet and I’d wonder why
she never stood by
the bread to watch it simmer to golden
retriever why her eye sockets were stuck
on texts from her 25 year old ex
Olivia’s wine glass
slashing sockets into
back of my skull

now when I glaze TV I believe
a watched sandwich never boils so I leave
it until the stench swamps the room
and I sprint to somersault a plate and bite into
bread that leaves the taste of indifference in my mouth

I no longer grin and swallow—now I toss it
try again, fingers steady
spread the butter like lotion across
bread belly, both sides
blanket the cheese in between
low heat, soft sizzle
pupils cloaked in attention
because now I know
how to make gold

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