Vase of Ashes by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello


In the streetlight where all the exiles congregate,
my shadows walk below me in upturned collars,
nodding their heads without recognition.
And one is the lover I lost just by trying.
And two are the vices I’ve never fought down.
But I am still standing here at the window
because the light from this lamp is yours
and my light is the bite of ginger cognac
in an empty apartment pinned with postcards
from somewhere I couldn’t be. I am looking
for the dawn because in some other street,
lit in some other city, you are Heracles,
bracing your foot against a boulder,
your back arched like an unstrung bow.
You are falling into the sea.
I place the corner of a postcard on my tongue
to taste your name one more time.

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is the author of Hour of the Ox, which won the 2015 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, and Last Train to the Midnight Market (2013), and has received poetry fellowships from Kundiman and the Knight Foundation, among others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art, Southern Humanities Review, and more. She serves as co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards, a contributing editor for Florida Book Review, and producer for The Working Poet Radio Show. Visit her at