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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.