Her mother is in the black hills
where trees divide the rations
between the poor and the poorer,
peeling bark away from a tree
in strips as rough as her own skin,
beneath the glow of a prosaic dawn.
She hums quietly to herself, one strip,
then another and another, as she thinks
of her daughter waiting, as she too waits
for her husband’s final breath,
the rolling of air between teeth,
beckoning for just one more ration.
The little girl sits next to a man
she barely knows. Can’t remember
the last time he touched her
or the feel of kiss upon skin.
Instead, breaths continue rolling
in the midst of a gurgle, and another
until he has left
a mountain of spit upon his lip.
She cries because she knows.
Her mother stops to say a prayer
between peeling pieces of bark.
The moon still hovers above treetops
unwilling to retreat just as she
is unwilling to stand (as if knees
pushing ground will keep him here).
But she steels herself for what
she knows she will find once
home. The bark, she thinks
will do just fine. She’ll weave
a seat with it for her daughter’s