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Spontaneous Combustion.jpeg

Anvil Quilt by Leijsa Squires, Page photo by Susan Wismer

Spontaneous Combustion


Half-naked above me in autumn

the flowering crab is laden with hard little apples—

the bite that I take leaves a small bitter taste 

in my throat. Birds will ignore them

all winter long until repeated 

frosts soften them,

all else is gone.


From far away

the not quite sound of her voice 

ghosts my ears, colours fade, a familiar scent rises

worn soft with years, wind-dried cotton, the red quilt

she made for my bed, crabapple shades patchworked 

red, pink, green, soft brown, off-white

thinned comfort for my questing.


My chilled fingers plunge

bare garden hands deep in fresh shards

bright newcut wood chips piled at the roots 

of the crabapple tree, touch warmth 

unexpected, feel smoulder, find smoke 

stinging the air, burning 

tears in my eyes.


Water, air, matter. Flesh, bone, breath, blood.

How they can ignite. Every conversation with my mother 

has fire in its heart.

Understorey Magazine 21, 2021, p. 26, in print and online at
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