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Ellen Austin-Li

Ellen Austin- Li’s work has appeared in Artemis, Thimble Literary Magazine, The Maine Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Rust + Moth, and other places. She’s published two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press: Firefly (2019) and Lockdown: Scenes From Early in the Pandemic (2021). She earned an MFA in Poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency Program. Ellen lives with her husband in a newly empty nest in Cincinnati, Ohio. Find her work @

Anam Cara

— The Gaelic for “soul friend”

I cannot close my eyes on us, side-by-side,
on the banks of Butternut Creek, clawing out clay

with our bare hands. Two young girls in spring
when the water ran fast and clear, giggles

breaking over stone. The tombs in St. Mary’s
did not scare us away, the cemetery our place

to live and play. Tori, you & I scored blackberries there,
no matter the ground was seeded with decomposing bone.

Fingers stained violet, we loaded our buckets
with the ripest ones—we agreed there was enough

when the heaped piles could fill a pie. For two,
time and again, the juice spills over the tin.

Every day, I wear the silver necklace you gave me—
Hazel tree, the Celtic Coll, in the ancient Ogham

alphabet, where each letter is a tree and each tree holds
its own lore. Four copper stripes on the trunk spell wisdom

and poetry. Now, both our fathers lie buried in St. Mary’s
and autumn leaves color our walks. We talk

about the deepest clay, only we can excavate. I say,
we are molded shapes, cured by time.

Anam Cara, our roots meet beneath the earth,
these branches we return to, our shared sky.
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