There was no going forward, only going
back. Sudden warmth making for sudden
thaw and the fenced lawn of one privacy
turning away another. Plum-brown mud
everywhere. Spring, in its base shapelessness,
stared up with its eyeless face. The trail
one long bed filled with the isolate sleep
and unclaimed green of the living.
I walked looking down. Slanting skylight.
Glaze of sundown. Read over the unlettering
of fall and winter on the ground. The surely-
seen-before bramble, beech, and spring
peepers in a black pool, unrecognizable—my eyes
lost in a causeless mood of anonymous dread
or fixed inert on deep, animal wrong.
Soft pant. Intemperate blood. My feet
followed the trail but my breath some permeable
danger like a slight crack in the atmosphere
nowhere visible but everywhere felt
with a sureness only the premise of a mood
verifies—the crack spidering and spidering
to a crest that ends exactly here: an eastless
orient, the strangeness of my own hands,
this softness without center. Whatever had just
tunneled through reflection, oiled now
in concealment or leafing its way up
a tree’s distraction. The many branching parts
of its sentence falling to pine needles and maple seeds.
I look up at the familiar landmark
of two bodies and know where I am. One
is pointing to a hairy woodpecker and the other
stands in a pocket of warm air, owl-spying
between two pine trees. His field glasses
scan the bark for whitewash and find instead
feet belonging to our youngest.
The fawn brown length of him balanced
in harrier-high triumph on a bare rung of pine.
His look-at-me daring hid, but the irreverent giggle
clear and distinct. My chest apples. A looseness
like water in the knees. All my powers
foxed awake to the nothing they can do.
Tree limbs rub and moan. High-pitched trill
of a yellow-rumped warbler. Perilous calm:
beauty, in which anything could shatter, and then
nothing does. The rural instinct in his legs
quickly makes its way down, and he’s off
to the trailhead, leaving us behind to exhale
the swiftness of his going as all over us
moves a random, mild-rambling air.
Supritha Rajan is presently an associate professor of English at the University of Rochester. Her poetry has been awarded Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Prize and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in such journals as New England Review, Gulf Coast, Literary Imagination, New American Writing, Bennington Review, Conjunctions (online), Washington Square Review, Colorado Review, Poetry Northwest, Antioch Review, and elsewhere.