“Ache,” “A Burning Observed,” and “First Draft”

In Issue 63 by Kimberly Phinney

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Ache

Stooping down,

 

               here,

 

I remember the honey blooms

on my grafted kalanchoe

and the bursting April storm clouds

that

               brought

                                               my

                                                              garden

back:

so hard-fought,

setting the night greens on fire

with gold,

opening their mouths—

alive.

 

I praised those miracle, myriad heads of life!

I counted them with my eyes—

felt their fight.

Yet, there inched that

small,

               black,

                              thick,

                                              spotted

                                                              thing

devouring.

 

And I wondered at him, too,

as he gobbled the

flaming,

               nascent

                              buds,

left to right,

in his invisible tines—

this miraculous being

that would soon

close himself off to the world

and transform.

 

A tear broke across my cheek,

and that ancient ache came

to gnaw inside my chest,

speaking:

 

To sing the caterpillar’s praises

is to wish my flower’s end.

And to save my sweet kalanchoes

is to wish the caterpillar dead.

A Burning Observed

I had been dead

for almost too long—

that burning decay

made good on its

promise to

light a decrepit fire

through my veins,

to consume

health and light,

to force all good

to fall away.

On that bed,

a void of sorts,

I only had my mind—

and it turned to water:

flowing from pipes

and down drains,

dripping from childhood spickets,

then falling down like rain,

filling swimming pools,

then dancing in oceans,

all submerging me

like John did the Christ.

And I thought of

the Whitewater Falls

of the Carolinas

surging

and standing

at its mountain ledge.

I felt a burning then, too,

as I watched the waters

converge

and rush out

down

past the rocky summit—

overcoming debris

and

defeating every pillow moss rock

that stood

before its power.

How I was swept up, too!

Like the fire did,

the waters devoured,

but it was better.

It brought life—

feeding the sourwoods

and famished blackberries,

beckoning the brown trout

upstream for spawning,

and filling its watcher (me)

with a belief

in something

that was grand and new.

Oh, now I know

there is a reason why

my burning dreaming

turned to water:

Always, always,

Nature knows

water puts out fire!

First Draft

Erasure

across a tired page

is all that remains

from the years:

rubber debris

left to right,

that vast landscape

of smudge

forces a gulf between

meaning and blight.

Sweeping change

across the horizontal lines

carry the seasons

but with each revision

we are blotted out

and I cannot

recall

much else

but addled

hearts.

God knows

we could have been something.

Been more.

God knows

I tried to hold it in my hands,

breathe it to life

and put it down.

But now,

when I search for it

only pronouns remain,

on the edge

in gray shadows

like carcasses:

I, you, we, us,

then

just

me

with everything else

obscured.

Oh, I look

but cannot tell

what draft this was.

The first perhaps?

But nothing more.

About the Author

Kimberly Phinney

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Kimberly Phinney is an award-winning AP English instructor and department head at a private college preparatory school and a professional photographer in Tampa, Florida. Her writing has been published in Ekstasis, Ruminate, Calla Press (where she is a contributor), Heart of Flesh, and Harness, among others. She is currently working on her first poetry chapbook for publication. She has her M.Ed. in English and studied at Goddard’s MFA program in Creative Writing. After almost dying from severe illness in 2021, she is now earning her doctorate in counseling and community care so she can help the marginalized and others who suffer. Visit her at PhinneyPhotography.com.