Emptying the ashes

Each morning they accumulate
in the belly of my stove, grey,

giving off little smoke or heat,
hiding the small, hot coals

that I use to start anew.
Each morning I kneel, peer in,

shovel out their soft bodies,
spill them into the waiting pail.

They are all that remains
of the past, of the hard logs

that I carried in, of the trees
once standing in the stand

before the growl of the chain saw
and the black truck that pulled

them clear.  I think about my children
as I carry the pail to the ditch

to spill out the ashes—their toys,
the way they made castles from clay,

the role playing card games, the nights
up late, while I lay in bed

trying to sleep.  I hardly ever see them
now, though I still have boxes labeled

with their names on the shelves.
The ashes cascade down, black clumps

among them.  Pieces that never
finished burning, that leave dark marks

when you lift them in your hands.

Cafe Review
Spring 2017