Remnants still visible
Robins migrate, all schoolchildren
learn but here on the Cape, every
winter a flock forms and stays,
long frigid months after their
compatriots have flown south.
They live deep in the woods on
hips and berries wizened by cold.
Sometimes they appear here
among the feeder birds, one
or two almost outcasts.
Off Alaska when humpback whales
leave in fall as the waters freeze
and the world turns white, heading
for mating grounds off Hawaii
and Mexico, certain whales remain.
What makes a creature stay when
almost all of its kind have moved on?
In burned out areas of Detroit,
you’ll notice one house still wears
curtains, a bike locked to the porch.
Sometimes in the suburbs among
tract houses with carpets of grass
one farmhouse lurks, maybe even
with a barn. I imagine its owner
grey and stubborn, still growing
the best tomatoes for miles, refusing
to plant inedible grass, fighting
neighbors about her chickens,
a rooster who crows at four,
her clothesline a flag of defiance.
Hard rain and potent thunder
An elephant herd of storm clouds
trample overhead. The air vibrates
electrically. The wind is rough
as hide scraping my face.
Long haired rain occludes the pines.
This storm seems personal. We
crouch under the weight of the laden
air, feeling silly to be afraid.
Water comes sideways attacking
the shingles. The skylight drips.
We feel trapped In high surf
and buffeted. When the nickel
moon finally appears dripping
we are as relieved as if an in-
truder had threatened us and
then walked off with a shrug.
Family vacation to Yellowstone
I kept a diary my twelfth summer
when we took our first long trip
since before the war. I wrote up
every meal, a skinny pale blue
child with sprouting sore breasts
I slumped to hide. Always hungry.
“For lunch at a place called The
Green Frog I had fried cat
fish, corn bread and mashed
potatoes. For dessert I ate
strawberry ice cream!! It
was all very delicious.”
Besides every piece of food
I mentioned only animals. An owl
tethered at a restaurant in Frankenmuth
Michigan, an owl called Jerry
a woman bathed and dried.
I described a horse who whinnied
at me over a fence in Wyoming.
I lovingly listed cattle and eagles,
antelope and elk, bison. Animals
I trusted as frightened children
do. My father’s temper. My mother’s
anger. I would have run away
with a wolf pack. In Yellowstone
I decided my future as a ranger.
I would live among pine trees
and follow bison through
the tall grass. We met a man
who lived up in a fire tower
and I wanted to become him.
I wanted a tower not like Rapunzel
to coax a lover to climb,
but to rise up and hide, high
above smoky buzzing Detroit
streets, the tiny asbestos shack
thrumming with unpaid bills
and the marriage of the cat
and dog with their unloved
offspring thin as a knife --
all of us with edges that
made each other bleed.