It could be snow, the way it floats, or ash
from ancient volcanoes awake and exploding. But instead

it’s seeds wrapped in something like down, released by the thousands
from cottonwood trees. If they land near water they grow

but mostly they don’t.

The sun starts to set and the air turns the color of a calm fire,
as if there were such a thing. Fire is always growing or dying,

and I love to feed it until it licks beyond what I can reach,
then I kill it or it might take everything.


My brothers and sister catch the seeds like fireflies. They ask
if it glows in their hands. They’ve only seen the bright bugs on TV,

where happy kids hold them and watch the light
flickering, contained.

And Mother waits for Father to come home. Maybe she just got back herself.
Maybe she didn’t. Maybe he won’t.


I watch the white spots slide across the achingly orange sun
and catch one or don’t, and see the old volcanoes, so far away

it would take a hard day of walking to get partly there; they slither into darkness.
And the mother mosquitoes gather blood for their eggs, and the stars wake,

and the crickets creak their noise to bring the females to them. But I will be different.
And the spiders wake and weave something beautiful to be destroyed

in the morning. But under the fireplace, the black widows create chaotic things,
webs just for eating, as if they didn’t care about beauty. But I care, at least

I think I do, and the daddy longlegs prance around the body
like it’s a sacred object: bright enough to bring the insects, but too hot to walk across.

I will be a seed that finds water and grows into a tree who doesn’t need anybody.

Copyright © 2017 Jessica Ankeny. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Fall 2017.