On the Hearth of the Broken Home
Slowly fitting my pinkie tip down
into the feral eggshell fallen
from inside the chimney, I lift it up
close to my eye, the coracle dome
hung with ashes, rivered with flicks
of chint, robes of the unknown - only
a sojourner, in our home, where the heart,
after its long, good years,
was sparrow-netted to make its own
cage, jessed with its jesses, limed
with its radiant lime. And above the unclasped
tossed-off cloak of the swift, in the back
reaches of the Puritan oven, on a bed
of sprung traps, the mice in them
long gone to meltdown and to maggotmeal
and to wet dust, and dry dust,
there lies another topped shell -
next to it, its doffed skull,
tressed with spinneret sludge, speckled with
flue-mash flecks, or the morse of a species -
when I lift it up, its yolk drops out, hard
amber, light coming through it, fringed
in a tonsure of mold and soot. If I ever
prayed, as a child, for everlasting
union, these were its shoes: one dew-licked
kicked-off slipper of a being now flying, one
sunrise-milk-green boot of the dead,
which I wore, as I dreamed.
~ Sharon Olds