She was undone by small things
a lost button, a missed call, stale bread.
Her ribs could only expand to take in so much air
Guilt was a wolf’s shadow haunting
the end of her bed at night.
To darn a frayed patch gave her some satisfaction—
a wound remade with stout thread.
For brief moments she could make the world
stand still, cup water in her hands and watch
the pink light slipping through her fingers.
The veil was pulled back
skin against skin, moments so intense
tears burst from her eyes making her
laugh with joy and surprise.
I walk around the house in the summer twilight
letting in the insect orchestra
katydids run scales in the tree tops
crickets, the violins of summer
carry the tune from tree and field and bush
an owl makes its first exploratory sounding
of the evening, three solitary hoots—no reply
the night rhythm begins
Warm August air pushes through the hammock
mosquitoes whine by my ankles
and through a hole in the canopy
I watch bats shadow puppet
against a column of darkening sky
I strain to catch the thread of each vibration
each pattern, rhythm, pitch
a unique life cycle
a specific niche filled
a gorgeous tapestry of sound
It’s carnival this time of year
no sooner has one reveler bowed out
than the next chorus crowds in from the wings
the belligerent rise and fall of the dog day cicadas
makes way for the ululations of the grey tree frogs
at high noon the meadow shimmered
with the stridulation of grasshoppers
and now young coyotes yip and howl
as they prowl the long grasses
Sunlight creeps into the garden once more
illuminating tomatoes tear-dropped with dew
songbirds and crows take to the stage
and under the stone in the wall
the constant cricket sings.
Faintly he hears the bleat of Mr. Dollar’s goats from up the road.
No chance of a nice fat one trit-trotting across his bridge.
Troll must settle for devouring, with his unblinking eyes,
the beer swilling teenagers wielding spray cans,
the solitary Sunday morning fisherman,
the motionless heron gazing into the slow eddies for young trout.
In spring he feasts his eyes on the surge of brown flood water
muscling its way downstream,
and gorges on backyard debris—broken deckchairs, bicycle tires, chicken wire
In summer he drinks in the swallows swirling in the fly-riddled air
and the young ones peeping from their nests
tucked under the bridge’s metal struts
In fall he savors the acorns and maple helicopters
tossed into the current by kids hanging over the railings,
and the flocks of Canada geese settling into the marsh at twilight
And in winter the old troll digests the slow trickle under ice,
and the eagle perched in bare branches with one eye on the open water,
the other on the motionless figure watching from under the bridge.
The air is warm as blood,
buzzing with the vibrations of mating cicadas.
A swarm of red ants scurry
over the slats of the deck chair
that has not been moved since my father last sat in it;
this is now their territory.
Whilst he slumbered
under the green canopy of the walnut tree
they crept, antennae quivering, into his world.
Soon fertile eggs clustered
in a coral of larvae under the armrests.
Workers foraged relentlessly
from the lawn to the deck chair to feed their queen,
right under my father’s oblivious arse.
Did his brain search so diligently for words
to describe the scene in front of him?
Or did he simply accept if for a seamless whole
and himself embroidered into a corner of it—all of a piece?
I brought him a cup of coffee, thinking he’d linger,
beguiled by the natural world he once loved; but no.
Maybe the ants crept up his pant leg
or the swoop of a red-bellied woodpecker
jolted him out of his being
and sent him shuffling inside for a spoon of sugar.
Amazing how the tiniest thorn
can distract you–
that pulse point of pain
on the index finger
a sharp reminder
each time you pick up the pen,
the spoon, the book
of the briefest encounter
with a wineberry bush,
your hand snaking
into the undergrowth
to pluck the plumb berry.
And now you’ve dug
into the pad of your finger
with an old pin,
exposing the culprit
and teasing it out of the flesh.
You marvel how
such a sliver could cause
till it lies
on the palm of your hand.