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Taking Root

Watching the Birds      

 

I can hardly tell

the Oriole

from the orange

he's eating,

and the lemon

breasted female

on her dish of purple

jelly— can they know

how beautiful they are?

A tuneful skirmish

when a second male

arrives—the lady flies.

 

Like us, these birds,

their proprietary claims,

their hot defense.

Self-aware

we feed on praise,

cunning in battle, artful 

in art, arrayed in colors

alien to the brightest

bird. It may fight

its image in a glass

or hubcap; we look

in the mirror at our

own invention

and are never fooled.

 

My mother,

half-blind, sits in her

chair running a comb

through her snowy hair,

over and over

soothed by the motion.

She feels my gaze,

brightens with a scheme.

We can make some

money, she whispers,

we can sell our hair.

I blink, she's gone.

 

Does she know how

beautiful she is?

 

Hands Deep

 

Hands deep in dishwater

I gaze over the sink, out

the window dreaming

of something elusive

as the soft blip of bubbles

bursting, quiet rain

of yellow leaves from

the paper birch.

 

I can still see this

tree in summer green

when we sat before

the window and what

we thought was a horse

wasn't but as big as

a Percheron and all legs,

gleaming chestnut, striding

across the grass between

the window and the tree,

long ears cupped forward

roman nose and hump

at the withers

a cow moose sprung

from the woods until

she stopped on seeing

the yellow schoolbus

rattling down the road

and turned tail, floated

back to the marsh she'd

started from.

 

And after we'd

told our story again

and again and after we

finally stopped all these

years I still look out that

window every morning

dreaming the unexpected

not the forgotten spoon

I dredge from the bottom

of the pan but something

golden and elusive like

a wild moose I'll never

see again soundlessly

crossing our tidy lawn.