She Gathers

what death l leaves behind

domed turtle shells with
their curling scutes attesting to
time’s ravages

an acorn fallen from the pinoak
tiny beneath the furzed burr oak cap
nestled beside the bamboo

everywhere feathers floated
from barn owls’ aerial battles
burnished shafts from red tailed hawks

the hollow conch and murex
glistening half-mussels holding
buttons instead of pearls

to ward off evil spirits she keeps
petrified mandibles with worn teeth
enshrines the skulls of beaver

mounts deer racks from the woods
on the barn to bleach in constant sun
their huge heads bearing testimony

she treasures the empty
snail shell and fingers whorls
spun from time and magic

the very air pulsing with it
this death that hovers after
its initial passing

once she had the dead
roses from her one bouquet
but her fingers burned

when she touched it
the way they did when touching
certain stones in the cemetery

where they spelled it out as
cemetary on the big green sign
advertising free plots for vets

so she chooses carefully now
what she adds in sacred celebration
knows death is still alive