Amanda Brahlek

The Sugar Shack   


All night, gallons of maple sap
are scorched to syrup-steam.
My father thaws in the slouched shed
among samaras of men
swaddled in maple fog
and dripping with stories. 

These men have been here for years
among the trees that weep sweetly,
pierced, they bleed their sucrose sap
into metal buckets nailed to trunks—
an offering to the gods of sorghum. 

In the shack, steam builds, arms cross
over coveralls, shaggy laughter spins
the haze and the flames ash to red.  
Outside, the maples scatter seeds
that swim through the air, swim
through bare branches. 

My father, warmed with whiskey,
listens to these sticky ghosts
older than Michigan’s maples.
He listens to sweet liquid hisses—
no music, no women,
just syrup for blood.      


Amanda Brahlek lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where she builds furniture in her garage. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from McNeese State University. Her work has appeared in various journals including The Cossack Review, Gravel, and About Place. Her work is also forthcoming in the Crab Orchard Review. She is the winner of the 2016 Allison Joseph Poetry Award.