All is a-melt, including my soul
bound tight these months
by cords of cold that release it
gently, so as not to shock
with the feverish heat of change.
To what extent do I mock Antigone
as I pass the beheaded hen on successive mornings,
her position altered by some night beast
perhaps, or just the wind
stronger at intervals
than the resistance of feather and flesh
I walk past on hardening ground
to give hay to living cows, higher
on the scale of likely return.
Anxious scratching of clay pots
on back seats folded down asks,
Where are we going?
Beside me the maidenhair rustles
in expectation. Cacti bump against
windows, breaking spines; juices chilled,
they stand alert. Several Swedish ivy apron
out, oblivious and shiny, they preen the whole
way there. With each knocking bump
along the road, donkeys’ tails weep in mute
regret for the table cleft by shadow left behind.
A knot, a snarl, a twist of birds
like so many words alight on my eye
describing themselves in joyful eruptions
of wings flung back on the wind.
Mommy, come and look at this,
my son called from the back door stoop.
I can’t. I’m busy. What have you got?
His answer lost in the distance between us
I called out louder, What have you got?
A bee. He’s walking on my cheek. See?
Blinded by dishes piled up to the brink
of my mind mired down in mashed potato
I called from the sink, Probably a fly,
and chose not to walk to the stoop
where he sat waiting. In that moment
of meanness, the bee stung; starving
children bit the dust, the nails in our house
began to rust, and Jack Benny died.
And my son cried out, pouring tears,
healing rain, onto the infinite desert of sin.
You chew the apple like a little beaver
turning it rapidly in your corn-cob fingers.
“It gone,” you hand the core to me
and seal the memory of you at the river
in your baseball hat, fishing from the bank
where beavers have chewed the birch I balance
on watching you, my son, my beaver boy
consuming the day with white and perfect teeth.
I came upon a well in the woods,
a cattle well you covered over years
ago to protect raccoons and people too
who might be exploring this thicketed part
this branchy path where also walk
the ghosts of farmers
who kept these woods as fields before
they’d grown to brush, then pine
and hemlock trees five stories high.
Do they keep an eye on the old well?
Is it they who have moved the wooden
cover, making a way for unwary people
or pets to stub a toe or paw on stones
that open a way down to the cool
temptation of life everlasting that water
is? Well water, that is, with its placid
face that draws us in. Kith or kin
are we to them who have gone before
ever we were born? Who maintained
the spirit of the 100 acres given to crops
and animal grazing and once-on-a-time
wells where a beast could drink?