From the window of the faded ranch
I watched a bird floating in the kiddie pool:
a loon, with its reticulated band of stars.
I knew which bird it was from the tilt
of its head, the calligraphy stripe
of its pointed beak. The loon’s ruby eye
was a constant, a soon-death luminescing
in the dark. It made no cry across
the dry grass, and for once the wind
calmed the dim circle of the pool.
Hummingbird moth—tiny hawk
at dusk. Nothing will announce
its presence but what I’d give
to see one. Thunder, tinkling keys.
Then I think I spot a clearwing
(fuzzy-backed, maroon), never mind
this one doesn’t hover—it flaps.
I stalk it to the shrub. I put my face
real close and the injured bat
squeaks and I jump back. I hate bats.
The bulbous eyes, the piggish nose,
the little cries and teeth. No
dainty curl of a proboscis I swear
I am always followed by bats,
both in and out of sleep. Caged,
wooden slats—it is my job
to lift the latch so I force myself
to do it. Haptic, harrowing. One
always goes straight for my face
and I hit it and it’s helpless.
I wake to its musty smell which
follows me to the light, to the desk.
When I write I feel the brush
of its hopeful paper wings.
My Mother's Stories
The woman wore a corset with
a cinched waist, lace dragging
on the path behind her. She watered
the rose bushes in the evenings,
hair pinned in loose curls. ‘Did water
come out of the can?’ I asked.
‘It looked like nothing did,’ my mother
said. ‘And the woman poured nothing
carefully, at a slow and steady tilt,
then would look up at my window
before continuing her task.’
They were jumping on the couches
while their parents were away
when she saw a pair of arms flailing
in the nook next to the wall.
With there being so many children
she didn’t know who it could be—
she pounced and toppled not onto
a body, but empty floor.
The sisters saw a boy not unlike their brother
when one would go alone into the barn.
He had a straw hat that matched his hair, smoked
a pipe and in some accounts crouched
on a bale of hay just behind a shaft of sunlight
and the smoke curled upwards
always into the sun he appeared to each and every
sister. ‘At first I’d think that it was Anders,’
my mother said. ‘But Anders never wore overalls.
His face was the same but this boy
said nothing, and when I knew it wasn’t him
the barn felt cold.’
In the photo, five children perch in sloped branches
of the dying sycamore, the four sisters in dresses sewn
floral, my uncle the boy with blonde hair on the highest
branch. The girls’ brown hair waist-length, always parted
down the middle, ‘which was in style back then. Rip rip rip’
my mother would say was the sound of her mother’s comb
in the morning. She laughed about it, told me again and
again how my blonde hair reminded her of Anders’. How
her parents tried for more boys, kept having girls. ‘But why
have more kids if you don’t like ’em, anyways?’ I asked.
She shrugged. ‘A big brood—that was in style.’