Poetry from NER 42.4 (2021)
That was the day you learned the wind could splinter a pine.
You crawled—even when I told you not to—through the thicket
of toppled branches, and this was the morning when I first noticed
cobwebs silvering the grass, though someone later told me
it was mycelium. And few people believed we saw an owl
on a limb, clawing and jaunting before hurtling into a bush.
Your uncle kept a falcon, or hawk, I can’t recall, when he lived
in Vermont, and built a mew for it, a shed, darkened like a cave.
He fed it most days, beggaring it to hunt, the last twitch of mice
in its beak. He liked that God had said no one could eat this bird,
this creature that is hunger, sinewy and lean. When you first crushed
the mouse spider—it was the cool front after the storm—you asked
if it’s a mercy to be done and done, and I don’t know, though we dug
two graves two weeks apart for the veery and ovenbird, each plunged
into our windows, the one in the front and yours, these two birds that
I thought were the same, bronzed green feathers, almost like pennies
tarnished. Some nights, we sit for dinner, no one talking, the picture
window framing us, and on this night, you make me kneel next
to your new bed, finding the two pillows you need for your neck,
and I tell you about a mutt loose on the levee, how I followed
him past the bricks rooting the hill of the Old Spanish Fort, where I saw
an oak husk, its bark brittle eddies. We come so close to things.
The water is cold, and no one body will warm it, not tonight.
I haven’t ever stopped thinking about your first snow,
about your front tooth tugged free, about the boat in the lake,
the pilings we saw topped by pelicans, slender as fishhooks.