Bio Note: I recently changed my writing name from Peggy Turnbull to Margaret Coombs, which is my birth name and also my mother's name. When I told her, she joked that people would think she had started writing poems at 96, and added, "I'm proud of you." I made this change to honor the young woman writer I was whose hopes were set aside in favor of earning a living. It surprised me to learn that it pleased my mother, too.
The Responsibility of Good-Bye
Five trees in our care must go— poplars with rotting bodies. They sway wildly in storms and one day will break our back fence, our neighbor’s roof. A man agrees to work in winter, wriggle up lifeless branches, lop off each limb cut down each tree. I place my hand on the oldest tell him what is to come. He answers, I am tired. I am sick. I feel this with my palm as his sap slowly flows. I remember the privacy his canopy offered us and say thank you. I greet his neighbor and place my forehead against her trunk. She says, If you must eliminate me, let me be of use. Let me burn and keep you warm. My partner does not approve of poplar wood. Too soft. Too full of sparks. I ask, What if you become mulch? Will you let something grow from you? Yes. Suddenly depleted of energy and spurning the other three I return inside to worry. What fate awaits a human who breaks a promise to a tree?
The Post-Holiday House
Weeks have passed since we vacuumed. We’re busy watching woodpeckers at the suet. Who cares about cobwebs in the corner? Not he, devouring news from the capital. Who fusses about dirt tracked into the carpet? Not I, swallowing novels and pecking out poems. Sitting on the floor, I can see where the dirt falls. The line becomes a song I warble, and the house laughs.
©2022 Margaret Coombs
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