Above the spruce, pitched wings work the air
like the agitator of a washing machine.
Raven lands heavy
and the falling branch of an old poplar
clatters down like the hooves of a moose.
I see her cutout form,
black tabs hold her to a bare branch.
She’s a hole in the evening sky.
A chill is at the small of my back,
My forehead is damp.
I pull on my Corona, feel the heat on my lips,
find mettle and speak.
Her head rolls down and snaps to the side
and she handcuffs me with one eye.
I am regarded. Then addressed:
Do you know the small brown bats have left?
They’ve dropped free from their upside down cells
to dart at a few remaining stork flies,
and have flown at that horizon behind you.
They will not be back soon.
Do you know of the moose that will be hit by a truck
tonight on highway 37?
She lies dead in your ditch by a barbed fence.
A calf, hidden by willow is watching.
Do you know my sisters who tear hide from rib?
They gorge without malice, without thanksgiving,
with only the terrible intelligence of hunger,
leaving the calf to run through jack pines and swamp
to plunge her muzzle beneath the algae and lilies
and meet the forgiving calm of a thousand water-striders
above, like a benediction.
The calf will go on.
Have you seen the stores of snow above my head?
Will you keep your face to the north wind?
Do you know the promise of the night’s pale light,
how it whets my wings?
Have you heard the millions of prayers
in the trembling telegraph of bats’ wings?
You would do well to wait through a winter for their return.
Spend your nights letting your eyes drop free from their cells.
In spring you will note their coming
by the bend in a blade of grass.
At least do this: Tether yourself to an antler
and go for a life-saving gallop down a cut-line.
Flood your dry vessels with blood,
then stand silent as smoke and burst into flame.
You who sit on a stump with your bits of paper,
go and kick the shins of God—
then go and publish your mind.