I only meant to ruffle your skirts, take some of the smug off your bold face—call your bluff
but I was impatient, eager to get home, and didn’t see the scree of gravel on the road
for a blustering fellow, you made such a small thump and crunch under the wheels of the car
I winced, smiled reassuringly at the child in the rear view mirror, his face turned out the window looking for damage
inside, the sinking feeling, the consequence of misplaced emotions embedding in my gut
ever since that moment the bone china jumps out of my hands, slippery as wet soap, and spangles the kitchen floor with a cymbal of sound
milkjugs of seafoam green and eggcups by the dozen—tiny smithereens the lot of them
I want to blame you crow for putting the evil eye on me, make you carry the burden of my guilt
but how ridiculous is that. This morning it was the teapot—my grandmother’s—and I vowed it was the last shard
to unwind a spell you must pick at the knots, teasing with your fingers, like unraveling an old sweater
each knot an undoing, paying back the threads, unlearning you crow and asking forgiveness.
She strode out onto the plain
Crushing rock and exoskeletons
Beneath her boots
Her sights set firmly
On the lights in the northern sky
Her wild child curled within her bone cage
—a glowing coal—
Ready to spring up from the purple cushion
And sway to the beat
She relished the roll
Of whiskey on her tongue
That strut—blowing dust off her pool cue
To the jukebox
Thumbing through a lifetime of songs
When snow blotted out her vision
She ate her way through the blizzard
One faceted flake at a time
For the journey
She picked her way along the seashore
Weighing her pockets with
Footprints erased by the galloping tide
She knew the way home
Pressed her fingers to the glass
Feeling the sharpness of cold rain
The wind called at each corner
Of that solitary house
Wearing them smooth
The sweet curve of the bay
Cradled her gaze
Buoying up the storm clouds
And those sunsets to die for
Strut and retreat.
A wind came in the window.
Like a small feral creature,
It took a turn around the room,
Tossing birthday cards upon the floor,
Chasing stale air out of corners,
Whisking dust bunnies off the stairs.
In its wake it left an invisible trail
Of greenery and fresh earth,
Buffeting me from my lethargy.
How could I not step outside and join
Such a boisterous playmate?
fortress, tree house, throne
toe holder, ship’s mast
staircase to the heavens
galleon of the woods above
tentacle crawling roots below
battle scarred silver hide
xylem and phloem
of centuries, absorbing
earth and air, detritus
one fleeting moment of many
ghost at the back of an eyelid—
the chestnut mare
scratching her rump
against a beech sapling
green with fast flowing growth
on a June evening
in a cloud of golden gnats
and her tail swishing
from side to side
the memory ingrained
in a low-slung limb
a moss saddled horse.
I stamp my boot,
Toes already frozen:
Tell me I don’t belong—
I dare you!
Whiskers of snow brush
My numb cheeks,
Warm blooded human.
With neither hide nor hair
To keep frost crystals
From trammeling up
Your soupy blood,
You don’t stand a chance.
Strip you bare and you
You don’t possess
The survival skills of a squirrel.
I shrug ice feathers
Off my shoulders,
Blowing hot breath into
Earth, you’ve got
Nothing to prove,
No judgments to pass.
Now leave me alone
To stomp my way
To the compost heap.
At nine o’clock on a January night
I heard the coyotes yipping and howling.
They’d found the fresh deer carcass
on the edge of the woods.
But they were not the first to the feast.
On no, that would be the crows who spotted it at seven o’clock that morning.
In raucous delight they barked from the bare branches
alerting their mates
to the startling innards scrambled across the road.
They flew down and strutted about the thrown back head,
and black muzzle pointed to a snow-flecked sky.
Inspection complete, the staring eyeball and lolling tongue
were their sweet meats.
By the time the sun was above the hill
the turkey vultures were circling.
That would have been 10.30 or so.
And by noon they’d folded themselves into the trees
like so many black umbrellas—the good old-fashioned sort—
to wait for their turn at the feast.
When the time was ripe they descended,
scaring off the crows with forays and lumbering, heavy winged hops.
Their downward curving beaks slashed at the belly flesh,
still faintly warm, though the legs were stiff.
By now the slow seeping red tide
had begun to stir the worms.
At half past two, a black beetle crawled out of a patch of dirt to sun itself.
It flexed its patent leather wings
and crooned with joy, sipping daintily with its proboscis,
It was glad not to have to share the meal with those belligerent flies.
At sunset three deer came stepping across blue shadows,
punching through snow crust
to stand by the stone wall.
Tossing their heads, they sniffed the air,
tongues darting nervously over nostrils,
gathering the scent of decomposition.
Recognition, scant and fleeting, of one of their own.
Breath streaming, they stamped their hooves on the ice crystals,
turned and bounded off into the woods.
And finally, past midnight,
When the moon was cold and buoyant in the heavens,
A small red fox who had waited patiently all day,
curled tight in a thicket, nose buried in his tail, one eye open,
got his chance.
He quick-stepped to the feast.
Snatched and gulped, snatched and gulped,
before trotting off with a gulletful of fat-marbled meat
for his waiting mate.
It starts deep inside
The silent knitting together
Of cells and tissues
Into an intricate suspension bridge
Spanning the wound
The restorative mind fixes its beam
On the hotspot
Tapping the reserves
Of sunlight and music
Channeling the resources
Of tea and compassion
The balm of small feats mustered
It is a balancing act
To keep the self-pity genie
Stoppered in its bottle
A humbling of the spirit
A discovery that strength and patience
Are one and the same.