The sun sets in a muddled bank of cloud,
the evening falling fast on Labor Day.
Five of us around the table:
a Brewer’s blackbird, a jack pine,
a stone, and Emily and me.

We served red berries and a trout,
and when the dishes were all put away
we played that old game of Telephone,
where you whisper a few words
in your neighbor’s ear
and they pass along to theirs
what they believed they heard.

Blackbird, I said,
All I have to lend is meager light.

He landed weightless on the stone,
repeating: Dark or day we rise in eager flight.

The stone, stone-deaf, in a low voice
to the tree: Snow numbs, but see,
on the hillside how it glistens!

And the pine, a metaphysical sort,
passed along: Wind hums, sit with me
and feel her kisses.

The message came to Emily
who turned and touched my face:
But when it comes, she said
the landscape listens.

Boy with a Gun

We shared the sidewalk,
and he, too old for lemonade stands,
his head, so resolute it shook,
his fingers,
wrapped around the plastic gun,
his voice, too guttural
for ten years old,
shouted “Pow!”
and the arm recoiled
as I walked on past his house.

I wanted to say,
that isn’t the way it is at all.
You hear the footsteps first,
the voice is soft:
“Stop or you’re dead.”
The gun seems far too small,
winking in the streetlight.
The ring comes off too slowly,
and the boy is nervous
when he whispers
keep walking.