Where have all the Cardinals gone, as the buds spring anew. Their crimson presence piloted me through the pandemic, peering out my small frozen window, so far removed from my narrowing world, observing the male nourishing his vermilion mate, awaiting the fate of winter’s affliction, veering my consciousness far from immutable restrictions, vanishing friends, unraveling of society. Where have all the Cardinals gone, my small, feathered champions, their bright song breaking the unsettling stillness, rallying my soul. They fly free as the barren oak grows effervescent. I yearn to fly free, loosening my grip from the now abandoned windowsill. La Beaute De L'age I witness the gloaming of you, that subtle refraction at dusk, kinder and gentler now, lust fading to trust and longing. I venture back to the bright, burning, brazen you, those vibrant eyes yearning, a bolden, golden comet, my skin could predict your gaze. As winter's light gains, there is warmth in that silver brilliance too. A glint on the glistening snow, reflecting, still, a spark, never truly to grow dark, only anew. You will embolden to blaze again, a strike of a match, an amber meteor against the solstice sky. I had the privilege to embrace the sun. Friday Night Lights Where I come from fresh faced classmates are the missing, recovered from water dredged cars or backyards of Fentanyl dealers. Four-wheelers race up and down hot black top in stagnant heat. Where I come from the pews are empty, the grave markers are plenty with premature dates. Friday night lights shine, small town beacons, beaconing crowds to cheer for the bright-eyed quarterback, sporting kinesio tape to hide the tracks up his arms. He still charms as he throws passes into an end zone littered with needles. Where I come from Granny’s still pray as they spray their gray beehives with Aqua Net, fretting over the pregnant bellies of teen prom queens, readying the baby’s room in the trailer at the head of a holler. The sun strains to rise above the mountains, the trees still blow with a hopeful wind. Their strength as strong as the towering coal tipple that has stood rusting, steadfast, a watchful eye of those with soot roots. Bio: Jessica Weyer Bentley is an Author/Poet. Her first collection of poetry, Crimson Sunshine, was published in May 2020 by AlyBlue Media. She has contributed work to several publications for the Award-Winning Book Series, Grief Diaries, including Poetry and Prose, and Hit by a Drunk Driver. Jessica’s work has been anthologized in Women Speak Vol. 6 (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Summer Gallery of Shoes (Highland Park Poetry), Common Threads 2020 Edition (Ohio Poetry Association), Appalachian Witness Volume 24 (Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel) and Made and Dream (Of Rust and Glass) 2021 and online showcases including Global Poemic and Fevers of the Mind Poetry Showcase 2022. Jessica currently resides in Northwest Ohio.