The Night Before Your Seventh Birthday

They leave the night before, tracing lost roads

the cassette player wheezing out the wrong words

so she cuts them off, leaves them echoing

until the crunch of gravel wakes you up

 

It is always different this time of the year

leaves still snuggling up in their buds

stairs too cold, birds too quiet

but this time, another kind of different

when you listen to the firewood sparkles

and the chopchopchop of vegetables

sliced too firmly and her fading steps

 

She returns an hour later to the cooling soup

hair dripping from the icy lake

tears and smoke still clinging to her skin

 

Later, the three of you pretend to sleep

mimicking each other’s breathing in the dark

you wait until her sniffles turn to snores

then, stretching your feet past the creaking steps

you reach the floor and slip into the forest

 

Sleepy branches grasp for your tangles

sprays of fern whisper at your feet

as you run from their rift, out of their reach

into their dreams

 

You catch your breath behind the scenes

letting them sleep just a little longer

sleep like everything is still alive