I really don’t care, she said. Do you?
The sky was blue, without a cloud.
I turned toward the sunrise,
felt the rays on my face,
moving in shadows that stretched
across the hills, fingers of light
that reached westward toward
evening and sunset and open desert.
I deadheaded the chrysanthemums,
picked up limbs fallen in yesterday’s storm,
noted the juncos and white-crowned sparrows
had arrived home for the winter and
stood briefly in silence before the one
perfectly formed rosebud that faced the first frost
of the season and survived. I checked the feeder
and filled the fountain, while the small brown birds
fluttered and chattered in the aspen trees nearby,
the two well-fed dogs sleeping soundly in the warming sun.
I watched them breathing for a moment, before lightly
stroking their fur and whispering their names,
and going inside. Yes, I do, I thought. Yes, I replied.
Come. Spin the night with me
Barefoot beneath the sky, we can
dance in the garden as the heavens
twirl their skirts in a celestial tango
of darkness, stars and traveling light.
The wheel of the world is turning,
always turning. Dervish, two-step
or a waltz in three. Your call. Your choice.
Come. Spin the night with me.
Work in the fields is hard.
Men come home without fingers and limbs,
Sometimes lifeless in the back of beat-up trucks
and squeaky wagons. Maybe you’ll get a chance
to visit bedside in a hospital in the nearest town,
gaze at the broken body and the bandages.
Maybe you won’t get that chance because
no one can recount the details, no one saw.
Sorry, ma’am, there was nothing could be done,
nothing, not now, not then, not ever.
Here’s what’s left of him and his clothes.
He was a decent man. That’s what I learned.
I learned this sweet life could be over in a flash.
We could be struck down off a John Deere
tractor like a dove picked off a low fence line
by a well-aimed rock. One minute you’re here
happy, singing like a lark, and the next…
well…it’s a good thing horses and wheels
and the sky can’t talk. That’s what I learned.
Waves of time pass through us.
Like the wind, we are never the same.
Seasons return, varying minute by
minute, day by day. Still, our fleeting lives
will not be measured by heartbeats
or the breaths we take. If we awaken,
at all, we live to tell each story, sing
each song of survival, every chorus of hours
lending tempo, melody and rhythm, composing
the symphony that sweeps us along through
the movement of our years, with no discernible
score, no orchestration, a work of art that cannot
be claimed, only created in our name.
With sunlight failing,
we come down
the hill in darkness
toward the light of home.
The dogs know the way,
though they hesitate
to go where they
cannot see, without
first smelling the air,
making sure the path
is clear, and nothing
is out of place. We
uncommon these days,
with lives full of wires
and webs, switches and
hums, bells and reminders.
The dogs stick like burs
to our boots. We linger
in the cool shadows, sharing
a moonlit sky and stars.
We know the way home.
Look at that bird, I say.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Isn’t that strange,
so early in the season
and the trees are
just now budding.
“What?” You stop
That wasn’t the topic.
Your question has no
chance of an answer,
no verbal remittance.
Instead we turn to
observe the restless
bird, a passerine,
smaller than a warbler
but not quite a chickadee,
newly arrived on the
bootheels of winter,
preening, fluttering about,
magical and unnamed,
showing off his wings.
If you had been my son,
I would have thought you special
as well. A two-year-old, so beautiful
and small, hit by a big car, who
lived to be a boy and then a man.
I would have prayed at your bedside
in worry and fear of loss, of what could
have been done to somehow stop,
change what happened, squelch
the impulse that sent you running
into the busy roadway that bright
Texas morning when your world was
fractured, now reduced to a tiny scar.
If you had been my son, the
fact, the truth, that you survived
at all would be proof that this boy,
this child was different, rare, removed
from the worldly and the rational,
living in his own spinning universe,
shining and surrounded by stars.
How do I offer comfort when
your tears are my tears? When
both our shoulders sag and sigh,
who leans on who, who opens
their arms to embrace the other,
when the other is you?
I mark the arrival of the days
with wings, sometimes brown,
sometimes blue, or scratchy reds,
speckled greys, nondescript hues,
the blur of sparrows or a splash
of magpies at play. One by one
or all in a flutter, new ones come
while others fly away, the stuff
of dreams and memory, endless,
pulsing waves of distance measured
as time, my humanness defined
by how I fathom energy and space.
I rely on the return of the birds,
these smallest of beating hearts
that find and ground me in earth
and rock, bind me to the passing
hours, hold me captive to this place.