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My Grandfather’s Chair on My Mother’s Side

By Kristen Tracy

The bird flies from my hands and I’ve had
my chance, I think. My parents will never trust me

with a pet. Which reminds me of the chair
I accidentally burned in our garage. My

grandfather’s chair, crafted out of mahogany,
near which I was careless with matches and candles and

rolled magazines lit at one end. The smell
that comes from an old wooden chair, the way the

flames acted like fingers, feeling away the wood. I loved
the way the polish sizzled when I touched the flame

to it. I burned two of the legs into charcoal. I
had been responsible for the death of memory

they said. Stupid, my father would yell at me and promise
to never forgive me. And now I’ve lost

my bird and it’s out in the air catching
diseases that it doesn’t know about. It’s

landing all wrong in the trees, perching where
sparrows or robins belong and standing out

with its bright yellow body and green trim.
What will she eat? For weeks my mother complained

about the starlings nesting at the end of our gutter.
Garbage birds, she called them once. I treat most things

with care, and I feel bad about the chair. I know
That I have lousy moments. I can’t alchemize

anything back out of air or smoke. My mother
went to beat the fire out with a long-strawed broom.

I was grabbing the air with my fists for inches, feet, and
the diameter of entire planets after my bird lifted off.

She slapped the broom on the concrete floor when
the straw caught fire. She pressed her lips to

my father’s neck and then pulled back an inch
to whisper everything that I had done. My parents

keep the chair, as disfigured and worthless as it is, they
keep it in the garage still. They never sat on it anyway,

and I’m sorry that I tempt the outcome of things.
No sorries come from them afterwards. They are cold

and I do not speak. To be beautiful could be the mark
of heredity or luck and there is nothing I can do

for my bird. Not ever her instincts
of hunger or home will bring her back.