half-acre summer (a revised meditation on a thunderstorm)

I had fallen asleep,
nose inches from the window’s screen.

     A deep roll, a sky belch,
     roused me.

Already the afternoon sun is blanketed, overwhelmed, gauzed.
A seeping, leaden heat rose,
tethering the clouds to the earth,
      the earth to the clouds.

The stand of black locust hangs over the fence,
a huge, lush ambassador of the forest and of time we know nothing about.
It begins to sway now, like some leafy landborne anemone:
     shimmering tendrils tugged
     by the gathering wind.

Another roll and I am fully awake to this awakening.
Building with deliberate, unwavering pacing
toward some action both incomprehensible
and entirely mundane.

It is felt in the resignation of the trees’ branches, which submit completely.

It is felt in the air’s dead anticipation:
     soon to be cleft, rent.

     The grass waits.
     The terracotta tiles wait.
     The fence waits.

The sky opens as it blackens.
As the clouds release what gave them substance and form,
billions of fat drops are lost in the grass,
mark the tiles, coloring them all as one.

The world flashes incandescence,
arcing meaningless majesty -
     delivering the chest-felt sound moments later.


Michael and Mary

My brother takes the cage from the mantle and places it on the hearth.
We watch them twitter and hop,
branch to branch.
They dip their heads in the water,
shaking as though they fervently disagree with our plans,
spilling and dripping onto the newspaper,
darkening the brick.

I sit on the edge,
turmeric-stained kitchen towel on my lap.
We watch them for a while, noticing the blackness of their eyes,
the glory of their coloration,
and the baffling, perennial nervousness that only small birds, rodents, and the abused seem to share.

As my brother reaches for the gate, they each find a corner,
avoiding an imminent reaching, grasping, petting hand.
They experience no hand and instead see a rectangular space
where no wire exists: an opening, a hole. The air that their kind so readily recognize.

Blue and green, they burst from the cage.
Their clipped wings and life of resigned inactivity cause them to veer and surge unpredictably,

but this is what we love.

In their panicked escape, they dive and arc, roll and crash.

We chase them with desperate joy,
towels in hand,
pretending to be unable to reach them,

only to prolong our pleasure.


On Wing

I, the shrew
you, the owl
wings of cotton batting ribbed by tendrils of hollow bone
and radiant silence
a god
swept and folded between branches
orbs fixed,

talons unhinged