Size / / /

If it were dead,
you'd burn it.
Scatter ash to the winds, to the sea,
silent life buried in a shroud of earth.

If it lived, you'd take
the harvest in a black bowl:
first fruits, sweet and sustaining,
blood and honey for juice.

If there was a storm,
you'd watch it uprooted
from the safety of your window, protected
against the howling it struggles to bear.

There is no shade in summer,
no autumn nut-gathering.
In winter, it waits for death—

but in the spring,
a single bud:
one living,
held breath.

It clings to the world
as you watch.

Publication of this poem was made possible by a donation from Rachel Swirsky. (Thanks, Rachel!) To find out more about our funding model, or donate to the magazine, see the Support Us page.

Madeline Sebastian Burtenshaw is relatively new to poetry. Her first public performance was her poem "Dare to Reach," commissioned for the Greenbelt 2012 Goth Eucharist. Her writing interests encompass speculative fiction, relationships and gender, faith and doubt, gothic subculture, and her six mad cats. Her website is
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