This chick calls herself an artist, but
that's just because they took away her pole.

I'd give him what she does, if he'd let me,
but they say you can't call yourself someone's wife
unless he agrees.

So I find myself, a distressing accidental,
my face one of those party ribbons gone limp
hovering over the bottomless pit

a gawky, raven-haired, pale blue woman
words trapped in the tangle of affection
one thin slip of gossamer between myself and dissolving.

True to myself, I never once confronted him
things work out, I told myself
everyone gets repaid, one way or the other

Me?  Back to zero, after all I'd managed
Still, I know, in the wish of getting wrong right
I might still forgive him


Paper cranes are a popular and simple origami figure. There is an old Japanese legend that says anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. I personally don't know how this is supposed to work, whether you're supposed to find a real crane to ask, ask one of the paper ones, or whether a crane should appear before you in a puff of smoke upon completion of the 1000th paper bird, demanding that you make your wish because its time is valuable.

Attempting the feat remains quite popular however. There's even a technique called Renzuru for folding multiple cranes from a single sheet of paper. I know all of this because my friend Landon decided to embark on the spiritual journey of folding a thousand paper cranes, his goal being to complete the set in less than a year. He maintained that he'd do fine if he folded three a day. However he tended toward bursts of 50 or so, usually doing his renzuru-ing in the backseat of my car. I have so many paper cranes littering my car, I'm surprised that it hasn't yet taken flight. Maybe when Landon finishes his quest, the magic crane will appear in my backseat and give me his wish instead.

You folded me paper cranes before you left on deployment. You said, this one, made from parchment and pins, is a wish. This one (a bit of ragged blue) is for luck. This one (cut from a magazine) is to remember me by. This one, red, is for my love. Remember me when I'm gone. I'll be back soon, and we'll unpack all our things and start our family.

When you came back in a box with your tags and your service records, I didn't find the strings of lopsided fowl until after the funeral, when they gave me your flag and I went to put it away into the chest with my schoolbooks and your old uniforms. Seeing them there, like a tangle of wings and strings, I couldn't help myself.

So I hope burnt offerings really do reach heaven or wherever good soldiers go when they die. The day after the funeral, I folded all your service records, the intake, the MOS assignment, the unit assignment, the doctor's remarks, into paper cranes. My creases aren't as good as yours (I wasn't the one getting a D in History because I was busy folding animals out of my textbook), but it's all paper and fragile, and it all burns the same in the end.

The first one I light is the parchment and pins, for a wish, and no matter how hard I stare at the melting pins and the black and golden serpents of papery ashes, the flecks of smoke and sparks don't conjure you back from the ground or heaven.

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