Without Ceremony or Ritual of My Own

Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega

I have been weaving together these maile leaves

without tools of ceremony or ritual of my own

at Hymn Sing, we sat back-to-back, our knees pulled up

and sang mostly Negro Spirituals without needing the hymnal

at L.’s family Seder, bites in taupe mounds on the plate:

matzoh, horseradish, gefilte fish, my mouth in shock around these symbols

at sixteen, reaching for K. who had pulled me up

to communion during a wedding, I stood with no words before a priest

on his eighteenth birthday, your brother received the thin, brown-paper package

across the picnic table from your father and even your step-mother laughed

on the Vermont road at midnight, there were no cars when I snapped

a picture of you laying spread-eagle on the white lines

the women in your family grew their hair to their waists,

coiled it up at their necks for your wedding

on your shoulder, a pixie winks as you pull your hair aside, begin

to dance in the pulsing lights and you are not drunk, you are never drunk

what should have been bitter and sweet, savory and salt

I arrange on a plate: in small mounds sugar and flour, butter and chocolate.