Until the Burial
Manhasset, New York, USA
Herricks High School
Yesterday, my father dug out the roots of the dead tree in the yard.
He planted a plum tree,
young and veinless, the bark so thin that I peel off strips and fold paper cranes
so the tree can grow wings
when its leaves are soaked dry of purple bruise, when its bitter juices seep into the ground,
the cold begins to pierce the stale air
through vacant branches, I think more and more of the paper scars on his hands,
how his skin is a web of blistered veins
how winter burns into his mournful laugh, when at last I am the one breathing in frostbite
spreading from limb to limb.
A year ago, my father cut off the stems of the withered flowers in the house.
He potted orchids,
pale and spineless, the petals translucent in the sun like a sheet of paper held to the light.
I soak the pieces in salt water,
so the ink bleeds into the threadbare curtains, so the dye seeps through the clouded window,
so in February I begin to imagine
red embroidery on his eyes before the orchids bloom, a spring without snow but the rain is always
something he never forgets,
through the whistle of the boiling kettle, the bird cries heard at waking, I knew I was too young
to remember meeting him.
When I was younger, my father tore out the wrinkled pages of the coloring book.
He drew a forest
on the empty pages left inside, graphite smudging his bony knuckles
like sketches of ash and soil
that littered the grass with cast-aside feathers—the scraps of these snow-blown paper cranes
we used to fly like kites,
until his hands were caught in the strings, as the birds tugged on his swaying, dancing frame,
and I could almost see
a plum tree, an orchid, and a forest, all blooming and yellowing underneath the weak sun
like strange corpses from the sky.
A burial. A farewell. The inevitability of time so eloquently captured by one corner of the house, the metamorphosis of a flower that grows as lofty as the age gently weighing its watch. Follow the narrator into the backyard of memory, the place where everything feels beyond surreal, a testament to the days that have slowly faded away with time.
Ellery Ibo graduated from Herricks High School in 2022. She is currently a freshman at NYU and hopes to study creative writing. Her poetry has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Live Poets of New Jersey, and the Keats-Shelley Young Romantics Prizes. In her free time, Ellery enjoys drawing in her sketchbook and taking pictures on the train.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR