National Poetry Month Day 24: “We Were Waiting” by Brenna W. Lemieux ’07

We Were Waiting

 

The trees undress as gradually as parents

after a dinner party and everything outside

smells smoky: burnt-wick branches,

 

leaves drifted like spent flames—as if hundreds

of front lawns flared and snuffed to brace

themselves for winter. One night, a mother

 

and father return whispering, slip off

their shoes and tiptoe to kiss their daughters’

foreheads. Her earrings unclasp in her fingers,

 

a glass fills with tapwater at his touch.

Upstairs, he tugs her zipper—her dress curls

from her shoulders and sifts to the floor,

 

their bare limbs sway into each other.

In family legend, this is how the fire began:

castoff party clothes like leaves, arms and legs

 

like twigs, the house itself a furnace. The parents

woke to find their hair singed gray, their skin

dry and wrinkled, their daughters’ beds empty,

 

ash collected on the pillows. It happened so quickly,

said the father. Yes, said the mother,

And we didn’t even realize we were waiting for it.

 

_________________________________

Brenna W. Lemieux earned a BA at Bucknell University and an MFA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. “We Were Waiting” was one of three poems awarded the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Prize in 2011. All three poems appear on the fund’s website here. Her poems have also appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Threepenny Review, and Ploughshares, among others. She currently lives in Illinois.


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