SWAN LAKE

SWAN LAKE

 

I was washing the supper dishes,

and on the radio came “Swan Lake.” 

Since I don’t dance, I conducted. 

As I waved my dishcloth in time,

it dawned on me like slow winter sunrise

that Pyotr was himself a swan

trapped by his times in the form 

of a bearded man. 

                                 If he lived today

he could dance in feathers and white satin, 

caught and steadied by a beautiful prince.

No sorcerer would do him harm.

He would be full of grace and celebration.

And at the end, he would ascend 

above the Lake, and shine. 

HUNTER

HUNTER

 

 

Life has given me a yellow dog

who noses the ground.

Shall we go hunting? I ask her, 

and she laughs.

 

She eagers her way down the drive,

shows me where deer trailed 

into the woods, where rabbits

skittered into brambles. 

 

She raises her head

to catch something in the air—

a whiff of owl? A drift of horse 

from the neighbor’s barn?

Fox, fisher, coyote, stray cat? 

There is so much out there

to track and find.

 

Hunter ascends at dawn, 

her crescent no longer

the crown of youth but

the mark of crone. 

 

She glows in the cold sky

above the house where

my husband still sleeps.

Her light is enough to see by,

and what shall I see?

There is so much out here

to track and find.

WHERE ARE THE OWLS?

WHERE ARE THE OWLS?

 

Last winter, they surrounded me, circled

my head, sat on the bedposts, 

 

nested in the mailbox, ate all the onions 

in my garden. They sang through my sleep,

 

their sweet trillings and warblings

coloring my dreams.  I wore their cast-off 

 

feathers in my hair, lined my boots

with their fur. Where are they now?

 

Did the angel who keeps the flower bed

decide I’d had them long enough?

 

Oh, send me an owl! 

Just one would do—

 

one dark-eyed barred owl

to sit in the ash tree across the way,

 

just one owl in the ash tree.

Please make everything all right again.

 

WINTER DEER

WINTER DEER

Through the trees they came

at twilight or at dawn,

bowing their graceful heads

beneath the snowy branches.

They left their heart-prints

along the drive awhile, 

crossed then into the pines.

Three doe with this spring’s young.

Every year I’ve seen them,

nine of them. The immortal

deer at the border of what

we think is ours, what has

always been theirs.

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

 

My clay things are childish, lumpy,

heavy-glazed. Jizus in ting chin

or whatever that brown glaze is,

with unglazed heads 

that don’t quite fit. A vase

dripping with blue globs.

 

I’m making crêche figures—

faceless fingerprinty Mary

and Joseph, a baby

the size of a kidney bean

who fits inside a tiny pod.

Animals from children’s dreams.

 

My favorite so far is a blue fish

with a red mouth and runny

eyes. It waits with baited

yellow tongue on my desk to remind

me that everything is process,

that perfection is overrated,

never attained.

 

 

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.

WHOSE WOODS?

WHOSE WOODS?

after R. F.

He doesn’t tell if it was a newcomer

who didn’t understand about hunting,

or a local curmudgeon with a grudge

who posted the woods along the road.

But he made a promise to himself,

and one dark and snowy night

near the end of deer season,

he drank a few cups of tea,

saddled his horse,

and set out to make things right.

When he got to that lonely place,

he slid off the horse, and in the most

basic way he knew, he made 

the lovely woods his own again.

 

 

I know I’m not the first person to have this thought.