"Eastern Bluebird and a Group of Bleeding Hearts Sheltering a Chrysalis" by Virginia Smith Rice




Eastern Bluebird and a Group of Bleeding Hearts

Sheltering a Chrysalis



When it was finally condemned, locked

between crane jaws and torn open like a doll

house, for a few moments the bedroom wallpaper

was still intact — a pattern of block houses,


dark blue on red, light blue on dark blue,

red on dark blue, a whole

border of home, home, home, like an incantation

against disaster, an assertion


faced with the uncertainty of income and weather —

until the thin strips of light draping the room, dilated

and blinded, suddenly became the whole sky.

Once, in a long December, my daughter messaged


that she was stopping by her father’s empty house

to collect her things, and when I thought of that

unlit brick alone in the fields, the iced roads,

the coyotes no longer hidden in stalks and no longer


feeling a need to hide, I said no, save it for daylight,

and of course she went anyway while I laid in bed,

staring at two watercolors propped against the baseboard,

telling myself the narrowest story, the white screen


in my left eye sparking slowly back to lamplight.

It was after I heard her key turn, the close

and click, that I allowed the feel of my own body

to once more spread outward and fill the room,


and could bear again the imposition of my three

nightly familiars, trailing their graves

of black crepe and re-arranging hours into arias

and cathedrals, until the curtains grayed


and I stepped out of bed, out the front door, climbing

to the top of my new street toward the oncoming

morning, ready to throw myself under its heavy rise

and lift it into the brightening sky.





illustration by Sarah Hasty Williams



Virginia Smith Rice is the author of the poetry collection When I Wake It Will Be Forever, and a poetry chapbook, Whose House, Whose Playroom. Collaborative poems, co-written with Christine Pacyk, are included in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing.

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