The last night before COVID’s storm,
the lights went out. I’m here! I yelled
& there you appeared with a red candle
dripping wax. You wouldn’t share the fire,
let your fingers burn. Why should both
of us get hurt? Every drop of wax a crimson
scream, like the bright bead of the
cedar waxwing now floating above me—
her slick crested head & rakish mask,
red feather stamp like the seal on a letter
too sad to read. Which birds learn
to sing while falling? Can girl birds nest
together? If only they uttered queer
in science class, I might hate myself less.
We tried to end it so many times.
We can do this. Bloodletting, forgetting.
I asked for a masked photo of you
to stare into your eyes, your lips hiding.
Plague doctors wore masks with beaks,
sharp herbs packed in the tip to stay alert.
All the ways we’re still like them—half 
alive, disguised, waiting. Birds are skilled
in the art of camouflage, but do they lie?
Deny? Jung’s feral & shadow side. Only
you have seen me without my mask.
The waxwing is hardly an ounce, but
the heaviness of seeing that rare being
scares me, like the iridescent darkness
of a dream. Storms will come again.  
Stop, look: If we both held the candle
we’d steady the light. It’ll burn
like a bastard, but we’ll be alright.

Note: Lineation for this poem is best viewed on desktop or laptop.

Margot Douaihy, PhD, is the author of Girls Like You and Scranton Lace (Clemson University Press). Her work has been featured in PBS NewsHour, North American Review, Colorado Review, Wisconsin Review, and Tahoma Literary Review, among others. She is the editor of Northern New England Review.

Next Page (Marisa P. Clark)

Previous Page (Margot Douaihy)