Ten years old, I climbed stone fences,
side-stepped down hills rough with ice.
Sparrows moved in the branches of pines
but I was after the rare bird, ghost owl
blown off course by a storm.
I tell you this so you will know me,
a Mohawk Valley girl, scientist's daughter
hungry for meaning, saddened
by the flight of galaxies,
how they rush away from us, red-shifting
through a lace of equations.
And the crystalline structure of snow,
invisible in those mounds and drifts,
wind off the frozen river lifting
a powdery dazzle. I wanted to enter
everything that could be seen and touched.
I do not know if I found him.
What comes back to me is the looking—
hedge roses, their canes black,
textures of birch and alder,
cattails at the edge of the marsh.
I wish I could conjure the living bird,
offer you cruel beak and sky-soaked eyes,
predator angel, white wings raised.
But this late, among seasonless hills,
their tan flanks clothed in grass and scrub,
my life more than half over,
I bring only the luminous surface
of things. That, and the hunger.
Poems by Sharon Fain:
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets