Your mother asks you when you’ll bring a wife.
She wants a bride for you, a woman who knows
the sound of rain on roofs, and how dirt feels
in her finger’s creases. Your mother’s anxious,
pulling down the last of the preserves
in the root cellar. She fills the hours with bread
and red wine, says her prayers by mothballs
in the closet, cotton sheets pulled taut
against the bed. Your mother asks you
when you’ll bring a wife to fill the wounds
in your wrists with evening primrose. If you drop
a penny in, she would fetch it for you,
spreading the soil with her hands to palm her way
through stones, a trail of feathers in lieu of breadcrumbs.
A magpie nests inside your pocket. No one
speaks of it outside the family,
the way it keeps flying into the window.
These things come in threes. She gathers husbands
the way the desert gathers prophets, where the sand
has a skill for swallowing, for hiding birds best hid.
You learn the whiskey’s anesthesia,
scry the nicks from the razor. The magpie’s son
has forgotten the tender shape of your mouth as you stand
alone, sweating at the altar, trembling to fly.
Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland, His first full-length collection, breaths, is available from VanZeno Press. Intrinsic Night, a collaborative project he wrote with J. E. Stanley, was published by Sam’s Dot Publishing. His most recent collection, Inhuman: Haiku from the Zombie Apocalypse, is available on Poet’s Haven Press. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, rye whiskey and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.