Once again, winter is just around the corner and I don’t know where the time went. Already, morning glories have spread out and covered most of the back garden that I swore this year I would keep up with, while only a bushel or so of green tomatoes are still clinging to their vines. The little field mice are venturing closer and closer to the house, looking for entrances from which to escape the cold at the first hint of snow.
The little girl runs into the flock of pigeons, determined
to catch just one of the fat little birds, hold its warm breast
close to her ear, against her soft cheek. If she were older, she might wonder
what sort of secrets her captured bird could tell her
if forced to speak in her tongue, but since she’s so young
there’s only love in her heart and grasping hands.
The birds flutter around her in a wave of gray and white, just out of reach
but not far enough to cause the curious onlookers
to leave without dumping out the contents of the little brown bags in their hands
cookie crumbs and bits of donuts and bread.
The little girl’s black shoes crush through
the piles offerings, muddy up the bits of bread and bakery items,
but because they’re just birds
they really don’t care.
The Last Suitcase
I watched him float away like a single tuft of dandelion fluff
out of my arms and out of the house and into his own life
and then the door closed and I was alone. There was not one moment
in the past twenty years that I thought about this day
without thinking I’d be filled with relief, and joy, and the feeling
of a job well-done, or at least adequately done—
I was not prepared for the grief, the oppressive constant knot in my heart
the nagging feeling that there was so much I should have done
so many things I should have said
so many missed opportunities to let my son know
how wonderful he made everything for me
how I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now that he’s gone.
At the Time of the Photograph
At the last minute, the camera man decides we should also dress like Eskimos
hands us each a folded sealskin jacket and pair of trousers, mittens so big
they look like baseball mitts. We all laugh uncomfortably
as we change into the heavily-oiled outerwear
try to apologize to our indigenous hosts through eye-rolling and shrugging
as we succumb to the camera man’s artistic vision.
When the photos show up in the mail, months later, we can’t help but notice
everyone in the photo is wearing the same expression, visitor and native alike.
It’s like someone said “look exasperated!” before taking the shot. My husband tells me
you can barely tell the Inuits apart from the scientists, we all look
so much alike, as if we were all born and lived in this place of ice.
The pigeons would gather, angry, hungry
competing for each tiny crumb, every crust of bread
tossed over so casually by watching diners, even chase
errant cigarette butts thrown off to the side
as well, leaving behind their dignity as they
ripped everything to shreds.
There was an old crow that would watch them
every day at the park, head cocked to one side
as if in perpetual judgment and condemnation.
It was impossible to tell who he or she was judging, though
the diners who fed the birds for their own cheap amusement
or the pigeons willing to debase themselves
for a piece of cheese, the corner of a sandwich.
In the Corners
I have heard there are spiders that catch birds, and I wonder
how big are the birds? Can a bird-catching spider
catch a hawk, wrap those heavy, mighty wings in strands
of sticky filament strong enough to subdue the beating
of fierce muscle and breast, pin an osprey to a tree limb
evade the talons and beak of an eagle long enough
to deliver its powerful sting, a bite strong enough to end
Or do they only turn their attentions
to the tiny birds, hummingbirds smaller than butterflies
tiny wrens that make their own nests out of spidersilk and dew?
And when they catch them, is it a dramatic battle
to the death, but in miniature, a fair fight between
upraised talons and dripping fangs, or does it all
just end in the web, bright wings outstretched
wasted from fluttering against the silvery restraints
stretched between the limbs of trees?