At the edge of the reservoir, we waited in the wind
for the sand hill cranes that did not come, or perhaps
they did arrive at last, except the kids were hungry
and the drive back home was long and so we left
the breeze and myriad bufflehead ducks to welcome
the migration. How many times we walk away
before the miracle, like tonight, imagine! The sky
must have boomed with the deep rolling trumpet
of eight hundred birds, the hypnotic blur
of their gray mottled wings—and twilight
rattling with their mass congregation veiling the sun.
How we end things before they are done.
But the children were finished. That was that. No lenience.
No avian marvel would mitigate their hunger or fatigue.
So we left the wind as proxy for our wonder. We left ripples
on the water to stand in for our awe. I was a girl once,
too, who would not have traded a sky full of birds
for her dinner. But oh, to have seen them tonight—
we were there! to have heard the air rushed with wing,
to have my memory branded with the cycle
of ordinary, miraculous things—like the sigh of my girl
as she unlatches from the breast or the whimper
of my son as he begs me to stay “one more minute, please,
Mom,” in a voice that tells me he’s one more minute
from sleep. At the edge of his bed, I wait in the dark
for the even rise and luff of his breath, and the hush
eventually comes.


The Avatar of Paradox

She’s the exception to the rule—the rule is there are no exceptions.

In the soft space beneath her shoulder blades,
wings. On her feet, boots made of lead. Every
time she tries to fly, she falls instead. Her glass
is both half full and half empty. Temptation is
the only thing she can’t resist. Her lunacy
is methodical. She isn’t who she is. She’ll tell
you the truth: she’s a liar. Her secrets are all
well known. She knows that she knows nothing.
Oh damn these boots of lead.
She is always two thirds happy and at the same time
two thirds sad. She must have her lover,
but her lover drives her mad. All night she dreams
but never sleeps, the silence is much too loud.
Oh damn these boots, these tethers to earth,
this mysterious earth, oh bless these boots of lead.

After Receiving the Rejection Letter From the Sonnet Contest

I do not feel rejected. I read the names
of the winners and smile for them. I
imagine them jumping up and down
in their kitchens when they get the thicker letter
on nicer letterhead that says, “Congratulations.”
Sometimes practice pays. I have done this rebuff
before with less grace. But today it is easy.
I wonder if they felt as thrill-full as I did
this morning skiing across a diamond snow crust,
unbound from the narrow corduroy ribbon
of track that meanders the valley floor.
How I wound through thick mazes of red-tipped willows
and darted through gaping Englemann spruce,
sprightly and springsome and blithe in my skin. Oh endless rebound!
How every moment of that hour I smiled
and gave into, yes, the right word is ecstasy.
Sometimes what matters most sticks. Like the way that
tonight my love said that he loved me.
And I knew for certain he did.

How It Is

There are openings in our lives of which we know nothing.
—Jane Hirshfield, “The Envoy”

One morning it was a snowstorm.
That was the way the day began.
All day, I maneuvered through slush

and swerved through mist. All day
I could feel myself coming closer to
and moving farther away from. It is

like this, I thought. To be tugged
in two directions. To weigh grief
in one hand and joy in the other

and drive with both hands on one wheel.
The storm left, but the grief and the joy
did not. They settled in, like the old friends

they are, and made homes in my empty rooms,
rooms I’d forgotten, rooms to which I’d lost
the keys. I did not ask them this time to leave.

Instead, I made tea. Now in the kitchen
they sit with me. There are mornings
the world gives us what we want least.

It is like this, these lessons in opening.