Today's poem is by Debra Kang Dean


Three days past the equinox,
here by a window, again,
reading Eternity's Woods
because you asked me to,
though, with my somber
faith resembling
, it isn't a river
and distant hills I see
but three pines, bare branches
of deciduous trees,
and one crow in a wash
of undivided blue.

For two days it had rained,
so it isn't hard to figure out
why only one bare tree,
a little sheltered by a pine,
is deeply tinged
with a leaf bud's coral.
Outside the window
a stop sign and farther out
across the parking lot
the stars-and-stripes measured
by the wind. Once I believed
in the permanence of mountains,
a wild horse against which
a man might test himself. Now
I know how fragile they are.
Now we break, we blast them
for a vein of coal.

Last week, flying into
the Springs, the sight
of snow-capped peaks
and there it was:
from deep within me
that audible indrawn breath
and the silence one hears
afterwards in the seemingly
inconsolable child—a chance
encounter drawing her back.
The next day, Fred and I
would walk the rimrock
of the outcropping
I stared and stared at
from the kitchen window.
It was that close.

Out past the oil rigs
and platforms, past
tires and plastic bottles,
the ATV tracks,
a makeshift campsite
draped in a sheet,
we walked. The first time
the trail dropped steeply,
he said, Walk like a duck—
short, wide steps
to slow you down
I'd heard it before.

Falling in behind him,
I saw evidence
of the stroke, how
he lifted his right foot,
toe close to the ground
for a moment before
the heel touched down—
as a dog or coyote might.

Here was his esplanade
of wind and cliff edge
carved by water, where,
he told me, rock doves nest,
where jays might fly
from tree to scrubby tree
as if to light his walk.
When, pointing, I asked,
he gave me a name:
strawberry cactus.
He bent a little
to break off juniper needles,
rubbing them between his palms,
then lifting his cupped hands
up to my face
as if holding a bird
he'd plucked from the air.
Out here, he said,
in this high desert,
by reason of water,
of wind and soil,
no two give off
exactly the same scent.

There, the air so clear,
unaided he could hear
and speak beyond
the crabbed masculinity
of what he has been—
warrior and hunter, country
son of the ravaged city
of Flint, father of the man
I loved, who, now living
among the dead, yet
walks between us
when the trail levels,
sometimes holding our hands.
Even with all the stories I've heard,
what do I really know
of where they have been.

Copyright © 2014 Debra Kang Dean All rights reserved
from Fugitive Blues
Moon City Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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