Nailing Wings to the Dead

Since we nail
wings to the dead,
she calls ravens
from the sky
to inspect our work. “For flight,”
they say, “first remove their boots.”

She leans in,
inspects a fresh hex
behind my eyes,
takes my feet
and lays them on the fire,
to burn it out, roots first.

We’re the last,
babička and me.
We’ve survived on
chance and bread
baked from the last store of grain.
And as we’re out of both,

we will die soon.
They are gathering
in the well.
We disrobe.
She hums whilst I nail her wings,
she tells me a tale, her last gift —

“This dark stain,
passed kiss to kiss-stained
fevered mouth,
blights love, is pulsed
by death-watch beetle’s
tick, timing our decay.

They know this.
They wait by water,
gulping despair.
The ravens keep watch,
they say the contagion’s here,
they promise to take us first.”

Her tale done,
we go winged and naked
to the well.
We hear them
climbing the walls, caterwauling,
but ravens are swift, and swoop.