Pruning Burning Bushes by Sarah M. Wells


A pair of bluebirds perch beside the nestingbox.
They keep trying to fly in, twitter as they flutter,
but a sparrow blocks the entrance.
The bluebirds cheep and flap their feathers,
fly frantically to the telephone wire. The male
bird settles near the nestingbox on the roof
and she follows, the female, a mother like me.

They chirrupchirrupchirrup, look at each other
then away, send warning voices down to the bird
whose head looks out from their hole, then fly
to the wire again. This is the dance of catastrophe.
I despise the sparrow, its innocent peep, its spindly legs.
We lost four to dark assailants. I wish the bird
would fly away and let the nestlings be. Those are my eggs.


D&C (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)

No, I do not want to feel
the slow passing,
cramping pain
for days. Remove
the tissue and fluid (now)
while I (lay me down
to) sleep
a dreamless hour,
wake heavy after,
thirsty and unable to
drink because of nausea,
this involuntary purging.
(I pray the Lord
my soul to) Keep me
here to rest in this hospital
bed. (If I die)
Before I wake, I will imagine
pastel blankets, a bassinet.
Then (I pray, oh God),
the vital monitor,
TV tray, traces of blood
on sheets and (my soul)
the place I cradled,
the hollow womb
filled with no baby
(to take)
no more.


My Baby Sister

When the baby comes back from heaven
she will need these plastic spoons. Lend her
my polka-dotted dress, ruby slippers—
they will fit, if she comes soon. By then,
I will be tall and (see my fingers?) seven,
big enough to help you dress her, tie her
curls in purple ribbon. If she’s a crier,
I will find her pacifier. Where is heaven?

If she has to stay away, then let’s go visit.
I can feed her carrots (they’re my favorite).
Even though they’re baby toys, I’ll play
and help her learn new things. Can we stay?
I packed my doll, a bib, a dish, these spoons.
I’m ready, Mommy. Will our ride come soon?



We have conceived you,
and though I am heavy
with you in my womb,
no one can see it,
your arms being carved,
heart beating hard
in its five millimeter seed.
Oh, child of mine, grow,
grow. I want to keep you,
but you are unable to be
possessed. I carry you
in me, traveler
from my right ovary. See the cyst
you left? This is the first
of the damage you’ll leave behind.
We’ll grow and gain together
and then you’ll leave,
maybe tomorrow,
forty weeks, sixty years.


Bio: Sarah M. Wells is the author of Pruning Burning Bushes (Wipf and Stock, 2012) and a chapbook of poems Acquiesce (Finishing Line Press, 2009).  Her poems have been published in all sorts of places, and her essays appear in Ascent, Brevity, Relief, River Teeth, and elsewhere.  She blogs at

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  1. Beautiful. Thank you

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