New Skin on the Old Face

If I knew, I had forgotten
until something small shook me into doubt.
If I knew it once, it had been shuttered,
before the sun came up, by the sound
of the yellow school bus in the street,
or the diesel engine of the fireman
pulling himself heavily into the forest,
the black-gray shapes of neighbors
off to work, and then,
by steam rising in the pre-dawn cold
from the coal-fired power plant
on the north horizon,
by the lights going out in town
and the coffee shops opening up,
by phones ringing, and the winking glow
of computers on hard vinyl tabletops.

If I knew, I had forgotten
until the Steller’s Jay, chattering in the black pine
like a parent shaking me from sleep,
black-headed like the blueing sky,
and then, the river in the cold undying grass,
the rock, turning to speak out
and not into the earth, for me,
the gray-black shale
slowing long enough for me
and speaking loud enough,
in the reeds and wreath of cottonwoods,
how some important thing
was going on beneath.

Decorah Eagles Webcam

Lacking a necessary truth we make myth:
Athena breaking from the head,
Herakles, eight months old,
strangling two snakes.
He was found playing with them
by his nurse
as though they were toys.

But the fact is
nothing is born strong.
The young are always vulnerable.
When the first eaglet appeared
it was just a pip in the egg.
One hundred thousand people watched.

The camera panned the road
by the fish hatchery.
It snowed; there was an ice storm.
The mother spread her wings.
The tree shook, the chicks walked too close.
The nest was eighty feet up.

They were too small
but their beaks grew first
and their feet, outsized,
they wrapped like quiet bombs.
They fell comically,
and if the muskrat
or the raccoon or the raven
took some comfort in that /
when the female flew from the nest
she made a sound like a flag unfurled,
a sound that strikes at the gut,
the snap of banners above a bristling
regiment.

They had their chance:
there was the height of the nest,
the two parents gone,
the helpless ball of down,
but full-fledged, the young one
will tip from the branch,
and then it is too late,
when the wind catches the first flight
feather.

Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.