Faith

Today I stood underneath the belly of a goose,

its feathers formed the perfect intersection of down

from each side of a soft, plump paunch.

 

Then past my arched neck and over the road,

the falter of a bent wing threw the bird off balance

and I caught my breath for the goose and for the car below.

 

But then its flight amended towards the greater air,

and my fingers unfastened from a tight, frozen clutch

wondering at palms that know how to merge

sometimes without cognitive consent.

 

And when we have tilted sideways on uncorrected wing—

when we are bent in half by the unexplained

and move quickly towards the asphalt,

or watch the perfect spine of others try and correct their flight,

 

somehow the faces of our furrowed hands know to come together

and mouth the words that have always been there

for us, and from the vastness of sky

 

Snow Day

Remember how we left the kitchen warm

to high-step through the falling snow;

the call from school coming hours ago.

 

How we knew that fine red line would form on our shins where the boots rubbed,

but still we floated through that feathery, sallow sand

to meet the neighbor-boy who hiked a mile up the hill

with his eyelashes stuck together

and his joyous face chapped and numb with exultant cold.

 

Spirits of the dead soared and sunk repeatedly

when we built the network of tunneled snow

from which to hide and then fly through the air on our sleds;

adrenalin and joy stronger than hunger.

 

Yet a lunch deferred awaited us in the kitchen,

like childhood revisits the adult;

hot chocolate and tomato soup lingered on the table for discovery,

grilled cheese expecting to thaw our mouths.

 

Then banana bread of course,

before we were obliged to send the neighbor-boy back down the hill

ahead of the early darkness.

Where he would see in the fading light

a pair of barn owls splitting the air silently above his head

 

and those frozen stars of white

would cling to our names forever.

Bluebirds in the Alder

I’d forgotten they were there

a world of them flitting through air

with jade and sapphire wings at their side

unshaken when two worlds collide.

 

Unnoticed when the tangled roots are spry,

their nests don’t seem quite so high

for a coyote or even a fox to spare

yet still I’ve found, they’re always there.

 

And when those twisted vines do drop their spring,

when there’s little green on which to cling

their brilliant feathers spread and swing

 

and bluebirds in the alder sing.

 

Hunting With My Mother

There is a picture I have
of she and I during hunting season
slinking through sage on our bellies,
breathing in the cold November air
and exhaling smoke-like circles that span the distance between us.

Her gloves have the tops cut off
and the tips of her fingers show purple already
even though we have just begun.

Behind us,
the wind is carrying in
a mass of snow-filled clouds;
the first flurries dainty and transient
on the signal-orange of our jackets.

We begin to scale the callous, lifeless rocks
that cover the hummocks between hunter and hunted

then crest the rising hill to see the huffing herd
upwind and unaware of our presence.

My nervousness is obvious, I know.

She watches me from under the tugged edge of her knit cap.

Breathe,

she reminds me.

You’ve got time,

she reminds me

and places her stiffened fingers on my back.

Take your time.

I watch the elk lift their noses to the incoming storm—

their regality unmatched.

I can’t

With a whisper loud enough to startle them all

I just can’t.

Aren’t they beautiful
she asks, watching them go

and turning the safety on.

Blood Moon

Show me how you lift the sky

carrying your red;

show me how you wake and swell

and climb

into the billows where we meet.

 

Show me your crimson veins

over the rooftops and trees and the mountains deferred,

and I will show you how they stand in the cherry-dipped corners of their yards,

reaching high to touch.

 

See how they hold their children shoulder-high, and smile;

listen to their dogs bark and their horses whinny.

 

See how some carry the weight of the day in their eyes,

holding

holding on—

as they focus and stare

and grow lighter as you soar.

 

Show me your perfect arch into the shadows,

and I will stand in the corner of the upstairs patio

and get my picture taken with you over my shoulder

while I’m laughing,

 

because that’s something we’ve all done.

Oceans, Mountains, Prairie

Black and White Prairie

 

At first it was the ocean I loved

then the mountains then the ocean and the mountains again

but now I see it will always be the prairie.

If I could carve out a little hut camouflaged in a verdant bluff I would

spend my days turning circles in the long, gilded grass with the sun watching

the clouds narrate each breath I would

let the wind decide when it’s time to retreat before the prairie toads and pointed

frogs hop about under the brilliant reflection of the moon whispering the word

eternal

let the snakes unbothered, carve out their ssssssssses of gold and the

jackrabbits leap for joy over their communal unanimity I would

let the coyotes yip yip yip me into a bottomless slumber of cool air and simple

dreams

where bison rise to a bluff under the darkened veil of an afternoon storm and

mustang wildly toss their obdurate heads bucking and cantering

into this earthy outer-space more cosmic and unscathed than what people sail

or climb.

 

Sons

When you first learned about spiders that float on water
from the mid-summer grass, up-to-your-waist grass;

electric blue dragonflies
and Russian Olives, leaning and dipping their blue-green leaves into the wet.

Jumping fish in the shade,
tadpoles by the weed-dampened edge

and white butterflies, tissue-paper wings flitting around your knees;

each one after my heart

so differently.

Boys and Lake