How long can deer predictably live
in a place where hunting is not allowed?
I scout the periphery of the field
where they appear from time to time
find traces of an old scrape under
a white pine tree––pellets, and grasses
bent by the weight of their big bodies
bedded down for nights under the stars.
Do deer sigh as people do with peace?
Do I anthropomorphize what only wants
appreciation through notice? I want
to relate to their hidden lives and so go
out on the limb of that pine to watch for
their approach through the darkening wood.
“It will go badly for pregnant and nursing women in those days.” Mark 13: 17
From a nest under the woodpile, a mouse runs out
when I move a stick. There goes another, scurrying
away, this one a mother with terrified eyes
her tiny baby still clinging to one of her teats
looking for all the world like a water-skier
towed behind a very fast boat. Shaken free from
the tarp with its hiding places, mother and baby
disappear into the green sea of summer grass.
I thought I heard a child upstairs.
This house too new for ghosts
I thought it must be the bird I heard––
the brown and white homing pigeon
you bought at the Common Ground Fair.
I hear it again, wings beating
against its makeshift cage, fashioned
to thwart its flight.
Water dish flipped, grain scattered
a wet mess to greet you when you come home.
You at 17 wanting your freedom, throwing your clothes
and loud music around your room like grain
and water. How soon, little bird, will you fly away?
And will you return like the homing pigeon
to this place where you early learned to fly?
Deep summer hung purple
from brambles in the blackberry patch
as we ate berries three at a time
grew violet mustaches and birthed freckles
in the space of an August afternoon.
Our teeth accustomed to Turkish Taffy
Bit-o-Honey and squirrel bars
we marveled at the sweetness freed
by a simple caress of the tongue.
The dropping sun reminded us
of what our mother had said,
Fill up your pails.
I’ll make jam and pancakes tomorrow.
Too late. The berries almost gone
someone said, Fill the pails with grass
with berries on top. She’ll never know.
My brain drips blackberry juice.
My fingers are stained beneath the skin.
If I squeeze my heart with my hand
it comes out purple.
A Poem by Jane Costlow
Squirrel slides off our roof
into the barrel of pollen-scummed rain, into
the big black trash can beside the beach rose.
A lid might have saved him.
On sunny summer days it waters the garden.
The morning’s post-storm stillness interrupted
by this floating corpse. One more.
Beneath our blooms and clover
it’s a graveyard out there: beloved felines, disemboweled
possum, the bird that hit the window.
Sleek stiff hair, already smelly,
it slides off the shovel and into the back-fence hole
beside the compost. Dust to dust.
Air, water, earth.
The fire of sun
steams off the heavy dew.
All our bodies fall into what comes next.
Et in arcadia the heat of life slips
quickly down to cold, once the course is run.
Morning light skids down the shingles.
Peas and basil lift with the warming air.
My stomach turns inside me.
I’m the only one
in this joint who knows the end.
If this is the first day, if this is the last
it will be enough to have lived it
giving thanks for the red of the swamp
maple, the yellow of dandelion––
for lilac on the edge of the field
and red-winged blackbird’s pale blue
eggs spotted and scrawled with brown
and purple, hidden in a cup of marsh
grass, visible to One who watches over
and calls forth the life that stirs
in that reedy grass.
To borrow from the mail deliverer’s mantra, no matter the weather, tomorrow, April 2, 2017, we will be gathering at Annie’s Book Stop, 65 James St., Worcester, MA, for a reading and signing of The North End.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette features the reading at:
Hope you can make it!