Malheur at Fourteen

Alan ContrerasFrom the collection, Firewand

Malheur at Fourteen
For Vjera

He brought me here
when I was fourteen,
my hair long and dark much as yours is,
and I brought your mother
before she was ten
to see the great marsh and the mountain.

We stopped over there
by the cottonwood tree,
it was one of six then newly planted,
and the oriole’s nest
— see it there, hanging down?—
was farther west by the old fountain.

This is the place,
he told me back then
where my ashes will join with the curlews
and where year after year
I can be there in May
when the cranes dance over the meadows.

So I brought you today
to show you the place
that he thought was closest to heaven
in the hope that someday
you’ll think of me here
by the waters below the great mountain.