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I dream of women who have lost
their treasure and look at mannequins
through a brass cage. Madame Tellers who can't tell
them how to cope but turn their own, wax faces
(under the tilt of black brim with veil) toward a clock
and scale balancing nothing. Outside a few blocks down
sun wavers between leaves wilted by frost. And wind
cloaked in the wings of birds, keeps silent
knowing they will come, tend the flames.

I dream of women who vow
to keep their fire baskets full
as Winter settles in the park. Kindling gathered
from fallen leaves, feathers, scattered trash
and tresses plucked from brush or scalp.
They come under the stone roof of the underpass,
Valkyrie sorting through issues that cause
the movement to thrive or perish. The river sheds
its wild geese and cattail ash, migration
instinctive with the chill. But these women
pledge to stay and rise, rationing their strength
each day while time limits their length of light.
A cache of stars is kept on hand
to mix with the black pour of sky, the acid taste
of their early coffee.

Wendy Howe is an English teacher who lives in California with her partner. She's fascinated by ghosts, myths, and ancient landscapes. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, and Scheherezade's Bequest, along with several anthologies, including The Midnight Garden and Forgetting Home: Poems About Alzheimer's.
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