Today's poem is by Aleda Shirley

Song of the Abducted

The trees are full of owls. At night thousands
of them stare at me through the sunroom windows.
The phone rings; it is my dead friend, calling
from Boston. She talks & talks,
but I can get nothing out, I am choking

on questions. The owls' heads move so quickly
they do not seem to move. It started
when I was a child: late one night my father
stopped the car at a roadside park & dozed,
a silver thermos of coffee in his lap. I slept too,

in the back, & woke to a deer looking
in the window, its nose pressed against the glass,
eyes huge & glossy. The next thing I knew
it was morning & we were driving over the bridge
into Memphis. Later from a hotel room

I saw helicopters a few feet from the window,
but there was no noise. At night
everyone comes back to me eventually,
this one I loved & that one.
The air grows sharp as copper & there's

a beautiful green light that deepens
like water; I move through it slowly
but it is not wet & I never surface, no matter
how hard I kick my legs. Inside myself
I am several hours behind myself. From one summer

I recall flowers: sunflowers peering like faces
over a fence, knotted peonies fallen on the lawn.
For months, after I fell in love, I couldn't sleep
until dawn: nothing wedged itself between me
& the darkness. But passion dimmed to an ashy

smudge on the mirror & through the fanlight
I saw a collar of dead stars. The rumors you've heard
are true: behind danger lurks danger. Down
the street a house is on fire. Red light courses
through the room & I feel smoke like sticky oil

on my arms, the warm spot where the cat
was sleeping. When I come to I am peering
into the blue face of the television.
There is snow & in the snow a hint of static,
something cold & shifty I cannot turn off.

Copyright © 2006 Aleda Shirley All rights reserved
from Dark Familiar
Sarabande Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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