by Elizabeth Vignali

I begin with the smallest ornaments, start at the top
and work my way down, lift the fine filament hooks
from every browning branch. The tree’s fragrance rises
at each violation, its pine scent strong and tangible.
It stretches like an animal above my head.

My pagan hands, capable enough for this task of packing
away glass birds and painted wooden stars,
have again proven too clumsy to hang onto you.
I hear the whispers. No matter how gently
I remove the ornaments, showers of needles rush to the floor.

Why bother with tenderness at all?

Freeing the lights is a challenge. As usual, I wound
them too tightly, forgot the second habit
of highly effective housewives.
Begin with the end in mind, ha!
I scrape them from the branches, yank them
in popping bursts of scattered bulbs.

I don’t notice the stray ornament at the back
until it shatters on the floor,
sprays slivers of my reflection
across the room. It once was a bird. Now,
peering through the cracks,
the faces of a thousand women.


ELIZABETH VIGNALI is an optician and writer in the Pacific Northwest, where she coproduces the Bellingham Kitchen Sessions reading series. She is the author of Object Permanence (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Willow Springs, Cincinnati Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and Natural Bridge.


Photo: “Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA” by Katie Wilson