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.
I open to Rilke’s “Blue Hydrangeas”
and see written “July 1976”
in the margin. I marvel anew
at his blue letter paper washed out
like a child’s apron no longer used.
I marvel too at the 25 years
that have brought me to this place,
how in 25 more I’ll be an old woman.
MacIntyre translates: “One feels
how short the little life has been.”
Indeed, but then the blue renews
itself in one last cluster.
I’ve come by grace to this sacred time
I call the moment at hand.
I celebrate at the kitchen sink,
this altar, the yes of resurrection
of promise of clean dishes and glasses
raised up out of scum and residue
rinsed under water hot and flowing.
Again tonight I give the altar call:
Clear the table.
Wipe these dishes.
Come on, you kids:
Let’s get this show on the road.
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.
I dug the well an inch at a time
through matted grass, soil and gravel
clay and soft rock, down and down
’til at nine feet the water flowed.
The vein was slow when it first bled
but now the channel cleared of dross
pumps pure from the heart of earth
and cannot be turned off.