Descending the tower stairway tier after tier
past lurking car alarms and pissed cement,
she considers her meeting with the dreaded director
and comes face to face with a hawk.
Tethered to the earth by hunger
he stands on a feather-strewn ledge
amidst pieces of pigeon meat and flashes
a yellow-eyed warning.
She takes a slow step closer
toward the red exit sign behind him
and hears through a hiss of hooked beak:
I will tear out your eyes.
Perhaps the director can wait.
I ordered a hawk
feather in your favorite
hues, size small, no mites.
The hawk’s body is gone and I am glad.
Death was something he knew, but waste
of meat was not. Whatever killed him
(bullet, old age, diseased meal of songbird)
something ate him, maybe the fox, hungry
though disappointed by such a lean chicken.
The goose sat trapped
and stared down death in the dark
while we held our breaths and wondered
how her feet could springtrap such quick cold.
We told you after the long trek home,
too deep in the dark to make a difference,
and all next day you did the chores
feeling your feet frozen, webbed in work.
By sundown you were spread-eagled
on the ice, and we held our breaths again,
hearts sinking under the ice past black bubbles.
You might have drowned in the goose's wake.
Instead you stretched your body tight
and thin across the ice like a rope
tossed to Titanic victims, ex post
facto, and we saw you heroic one moment,
nose to beak the next with a perfect plastic decoy.
Through clouds of time they've climbed the sky
and never needed more or less than flying
side by side. The feathered pair and seven cygnets
swim with folded wings through fair
fine silver air of storms spent, fears stilled. Soft
dawn beams of light are slight surprise to
those who float on colors of the sky.
Mourning doves know parting.
They fly away
and cry in the cool dusk
the soft closeness of feathers.
Severed from her sheep,
the aging dog herds gulls,
wheeling along the beach
under their winged shadows.
Her eyes mark each sharp turn,
her ears alert for bleats.
The birds tease out of reach
and screech at her.
She waves her plumed tail
and in a blur of legs
lifts off the sand to sail
around the scattered flock,
her teeth snapping at pale
feathers of strays, her tongue
hung to one side, glad
to gather a herd again
Dogs know what wild-wind running is for.
Roused by whispers of wolfish lore
they spring over grass after ghosts of deer
that once hid tawny and taut with fear
and now lie bony in layers of land,
leaving trails where the moonlight disappears.
The rising sun of October dawn
shapes shadows like treetops iced to the ground.
Rabbit-tailed dandelions crystal with cold
flash white across fields, and all the mud holes
glaze over as thick and as slick as ponds.
The dogs skid over them, leaping low stones
to stalk furred clouds of frozen sound
from prey a hundred years gone.
Black dog crossing the road, do you know
how close to death, just a breath, you came
with my brakes pulsing and the car passing
beside me as you nosed a passage from one
side to the other, consumed by the scent
of pursuit? You raised a specter of two
turtles for whom I swerved but did not stop
to move off the road on the dangerous hills
near the river, of road-kill ghosts that haunt
the highway—possum, skunk, raccoon, hawk,
red-wing blackbird, cat, deer, and myriad
bugs that splat on a windshield meeting them
more than halfway at 70 miles per hour. You
won’t know how I hoped not to see you again,
either way, how I wish we had met walking.
Not often does one go walking the dog at dawn
on Easter Sunday, ruby tulips ringed by lawn
recalling dyed hands and grass-nestled eggs
in baskets of jelly beans scattered with chocolate
rabbits, recollecting rising choirs of church
hats, fiery exhortation, and running off to play
after dining on lamb-shaped cake with coconut
frosting—not often (as I said before) does one follow
a path remembering all that and suddenly discover
a four-foot, full-racked, stuffed moose head staring
steadily into the heavens with glassed eyes, mouth
sealed, risen from its mounting on some hunter’s
wall and abandoned by pranksters in the park,
surrounded by police (Did you call this in? they asked.
No, I said, this is the first moose, or even piece of moose,
I’ve ever seen) looking at me suspiciously and discussing
such an unexpected resurrection on this day of days.
So, Mr. Fox, mostly what you do is scratch and chew.
I watch you lounging in the prairie grass, a touch
too russet to blend into the late winter gilt. I wait
slyly downwind to see if you’ll play out some magic
role assigned by myth, but apparently your main
concern is fleas. You do not chop up maidens,
fool hounds, or take on human shape. You sniff
the air, bounding three times: to snack on a dainty
rodent? There is no urgency in your actions, no fear—
till later we meet in the woods and you flash past,
bushy tail into trail brush. But you have betrayed
yourself, Mr. Fox, for just enough minutes
of chilly light to show me both our lazy natures
The nest had burst into clouds of gray fur
scudding from bushes across the concrete,
every tuft once plucked from her belly to warm
the naked babies. One remained, unmarked,
perfectly dead, its lapin ears pulled close
to cold skin, a story partly told.
Knowing the beginning and end we buried it,
hoping the earth would hold the middle part,
the ceaseless moment of panic that raids our dreams,
softly bedded and tucked between flannel sheets.
Bright with color but blind,
you've tentacled across this tidal
pool all afternoon, seeking new spots
of camouflage after we dislodged
you. With open appetite and no
brain, you trust your feelers to
survive, trust tiny white tendrils
to move your huge orange arms
around seaweed, shells, and stone,
away from unfamiliar human hands.
We have loved you and left you alone,
no small thing for a boy
and a woman too far from stars.
As the tide turned, we tore ourselves
away and walked home.