Something Great

For years now I have missed

any calves being born

to the mothers in the field at the fence to our south.

 

During the day,

they stand with their bellies as wide as they are long,

moving slowly; sometimes with their unequal ribs

shifting to throw off their shuffle towards shade.

 

One will stand rocking, as mothers sometimes do in labor,

but then she will ease her way below the cottonwood,

occasionally lifting her nose to meet the flash of doves in the branches above.

Sometimes she will look at me: the whites of her eyes telling nothing,

but waiting.

In the morning, there will be two or three new calves,

altogether pointed joints and bounce,

awkwardly bent to nurse.

 

And the mothers will stand there the same,

as if nothing has changed from yesterday.

Their big, solid bodies remain indifferent to their overnight performance;

the steady arch of their necks are bent to eat grass in a shrug.

Even the calves move about with the nonchalance of new legs

and tufts of fur at their fetlocks, their markings like brilliant, individulized maps.

 

How ordinary, that the wonder of their coming waits for night.

As if the thousand-pound mothers are designed to get on with it,

Nothing to see here but life moving forward.

 

If only,

the holiest of affairs weren’t so easily elapsed.

How often would we stop to consider that

Something great has happened here

“And as I watched, one bird

prompted by accident or will to lead,

ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,

the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf

transparent, of gray, might be twitched

by one corner drawn upward and then,

decided against, negligently tossed towards a chair.

Melting all thought, the southward cloud withdrew into the air.”

—John Updike

 

Fall

The sluggish flies of fall will soon surrender; not yet the days too cold, we swim in splendor.

I am yours now; the grasses golden at my knees.

I am yours too; the brilliant fire of sundry leaves.

The wind is here, but not too much; the chill is too, but just a touch.

Bring me those clouds, festooned in sky; bring me their shadows, over mountains high.

Show me the smile on the face of a child; show me her face, all pink and wild.

Help me to find the longest way home; all time is too quick, this season on loan.

 

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Only Every Day

It is too dark in the morning still,

and I can’t find the light switch to save the banana bread

forgotten on the counter last night.

 

In the dark, I feel the untouched foil

where the cats haven’t yet found it cooling;

there is still some warmth, as my fingers reinforce the silvered seal around

the pan.

 

Outside, the horse becomes a broken statue in the corner of our yard.

The dog has started to stretch and the cats with their tiny, belled collars

weave tuneful figure eights about my legs, then move to judge me from

across the room,

waiting.

I examine the contents of the refrigerator for lunches, then slice the banana

bread for breakfast;

each move is a thoughtful delay.

 

There is the sound of the first faucet being turned on upstairs.

The sleepy water trickles through the old house somewhere down and

between the kitchen walls.

Then one by one, more slow footsteps rasp on the wooden floors above,

muffled only by the slip of area rugs where Legos are hidden and dirty socks

aren’t.

I hear the forced closure of bureau drawers, where too many clothes have

been stuffed and remain unfolded from last week’s laundry.

I know that if I go to check on them—if they are too slow and groggy, and

I’ve already spotted the bus beginning its route on the county road across

the field,

I’ll have to ask them to pick up the towels on the floor, the toys, the clothes

—to clean the toothpaste painted across the bathroom sink.

I’ll want to keep them

and I’ll want to send them off.

 

But now I linger at the base of the stairs,

making everything else wait

while I miss the way their rooms smelled when they were babies

and already miss the mess they’ll leave behind.

 

 

 

Alarm Clock

What is it that I say to my children?

Only the boring get bored.

Yet here I am, allowing those grudged words to ricochet

when the world outside is too still and good.

Please just the hint of robust cloud moving over the ridge of western mountains,

something that is strong and self-willed, and can hover over my house for some time.

Let me hear the groan of walls without the shift, the bend of windows without the break.

Find fissures in doors and windows;

run arpeggios up and down stairs.

Listen—

the wind is a radio that has just turned on,

an alarm clock set to go off at an odd hour.

It startles you upright, into the cold air

from the wearisome warmth of stale sleep.

Sometimes it is static, and sometimes you can make out a song from the opposite side of the house,

the shrill of a stretched-out exhale toward ghosts

who must be everywhere.

Outside, the leaf-barren boughs of trees stretch their arms up and down

like kneading dough. Fingers linger low with a lull and then rise again, pulling.

Nails on windows, dragging them up

and up

and open.

I like to see what you are made of.

 

Bringing Lunch

Between the morning and the afternoon storm,

I drove the lunch and the dog out east

through the yet unplanted fields,

where big oil has quietly left its mark.

Cylindrical, tan vessels perch at the corners of farms on top of county roads;

underwritten barrels of the prairie promised to be smaller.

 

The radio crackles from distant lightning when I arrive,

and just as I exit the car, her age-hushed voice calls from the tiny house; a

well-built, obvious survivor of the tornado that happened nine years ago.

 

The table where we dine is pressed into a corner of her kitchen. Paint peels

from around the heating vent at her threadlike ankles, warm air pushes into

softened polyester.

 

There is a clear window overlooking a bird feeder and the darkened sky

beyond; I like to watch the weather too, I assure her. Yes–And the birds—who

flutter around the homemade contraption as we watch, despite the

metronomic bark of the dog in the car.

 

The silver blue heads of prairie blackbirds twitch their quick necks at the

window; wind stirs the incomplete pattern of chimes on a leaning pergola,

and her words are saved only for things she wants to remember:

 

her husband and the child buried in the yard,

her children and their children,

the medicine she sips from a straw,

where she keeps the unused plastic bags, and what time her evening

caregiver comes.

 

The rain starts to fall when I leave. The resigned dog has given up his voice

by then, and his face is pressed against the window;

whisker smears in the condensation.

 

She is too weak to wave from the clear window, but I can see the bright blue

of her eyes through the rain, smiling at the silly dog

and the moisture gathering on the thrilled taupe of her lawn.

 

October Dream

The sluggish flies of fall will soon surrender;

not yet the days so cold, we swim in splendor.

I am yours now; the grasses golden at my knees.

I am yours too; the brilliant fire of sundry leaves.

 

The wind is there, yes, but not too much;

the chill is nearby too, but just a touch.

Bring me all of your clouds, festooned in sky;

especially their shadows over mountains high.

 

Show me the smile on the face of a child;

the blanket pulled back, her face pink and wild.

Help me get lost for the longest way home;

our time is too quick, this season on loan.

 

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