Cindy King


When you finish burning, what's left
sends a black thread of smoke
through fresh ash like a hand
waving the last of us away.
You didn't ask to return,
if you did, God never answered,
passing your request to some minor deity,
some lesser bird of paradise.
Nonetheless, you're here,
your body the shape of a milk snake,
whale shark, dust devil—
something only appearing to be dangerous.
Alive, we knew you as a closed door,
the sound of crushed gravel, a truck
backing down the drive. For how long
did I mistake you for night,
a dog's bark, an owl?
Now, we've packed up cold cuts,
hung dress clothes, and haven't sung.
We drink whisky in the backyard,
though we'd rather sleep.
But still, here you are, failed storm,
waterspout, empty threat that's not quite done with us.

Cindy King

is the author of a book-length poetry collection, Zoonotic, forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions, and two chapbooks, Easy Street (Dancing Girl Press, 2021), and Lesser Birds of Paradise (Southeastern Louisiana State University Press, 2022). She has contributed to CallalooNorth American Review, River Styx, American Literary Review, and other journals and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Dixie State University, where she edits The Southern Quill.