Levels of Concern by Stephanie Frazee

Levels of Concern

Late summer.
We stay inside,
though the house is an oven,
because the outside air
is damaging.
The sky—
dystopian-future orange.
Air seeping
under the doorframes
smells of campfire, bonfire.
I’m ashamed
to want
a marshmallow.

The chickadees are silent
as they flit to the feeder,
the same color red
as the AQI warning.
Beneath feathers, muscles, breast bones,
particulate matter
deposits itself
in a system designed
for lungs the size
of peanut halves
to find oxygen at high altitudes.
But here they are,
gleaning oxygen from smoke,
dropping seeds
from the feeder
onto the wooden porch rail,
furred with rot,
and hopping down to eat them.
I’ll hold my breath
if I refill
the seeds.

Spring again, and
the chickadees nest
in the laurel hedge.
I’m still waiting to hear
the hungry shrill of chicks.
One daffodil, bent over,
half yellow,
half brown,
half dead already.
The hydrangea
is all brittle wood.
I forget the last year it bloomed.


Stephanie Frazee’s work is forthcoming from The Evergreen Review and Bayou Magazine and has appeared in Third Wednesday, Juked, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a reader for Juked, American Short Fiction, and No Contact, and she lives in Seattle.

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