This poem appears in the Spring 2021 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe, click here.

It looked alive when she first donned the crown,
Yellow and white encircling brown hair.
No one had seen a wedding like hers before.
They wrote the vows from scratch and spread best men
Amid the crowd to oversee the rite.
McKenzie-Tanner, hyphenated names,
But he still had the last word in the end.
The ceremony closed with Cummings’ verse,
“This is the birthday of life and of love.”
Half poem and half prayer, it rang across the years,
Until the flowers wilted and the name
Felt long and cumbersome, a wrong turn somewhere.
She scoured the attic chest for her lost words,
And rummaged through the basement files and books.
She scaled the ladder to dig through the shelves,
Although no binding words were to be found.
The wilted petals mourned her worry lines.
There were more ways than she could count and more
Rooms in her home than children or traditions.
Empress of choice, she feared the coming dawn.