Julie Ritter: 5:43am

My father was a hive
Even strangers came home to him

Before he got sick,
we were sheafy, nested

until something dire awoke
in the dark pith

of his bones
like a fungus weakens the tree

All systems were choked & hectic
like a root ball

We waited for him to rise
and untangle himself

We looked for something strong & straight
We barred the door

keeping quiet
as his marrow’s secret turned

like a shifting embryo
of cells forgetting their work

People gathered,
wanting to know

Others busied themselves
dragging pollen to the threshold

We pulled leaves over us
with our teeth, draped one another

like crepe
and licked at our own hands

We curled in on ourselves
like a new fern, but weeping, rocking

as he breathed
and stopping when he did

Then, fully muffled
we rang the bell

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