Looking up at the ruins of them,
ragged edges those dead trees
raise against the sky, and beyond
them the cut of a hawk’s wing,
the curve of the river
of cloud shapes, I’m likely to squander
this morning with dreaming them
turned back to women again, having grown
old along with these mountains
and left here to die like the rest of us.
I’d sit for hours and watch,
if I could, how the wind through their branches
keeps trying to make them sway,
supple as girls again, line-dancing
over the rocky horizon of Snowbird.
But not much of morning’s left.
I should be piecing a new quilt or mending
my husband’s socks. I should be stirring
the beans left to scorch in the pot.
What does wind whisper
up there of death? Or is dancing
the gist of it? As for my need to bear witness
to all I cannot keep from dying,
the truth is I’ve never liked loose ends.
Just look at my quilts: a succession
of rings, wreaths, and whirligigs.
Threaded since daybreak,
my needle waits here on the table
as if to remind me how stitches too small
to be known save by touch
of the thread toiling under my fingers
can fashion a way out of one death and into
another. So stand up, I tell myself.
Shake out your stiff limbs and sway
like your sisters up there on the ridge,
still in line for the next dancing lesson.
from BLACK SHAWL, LSU Press, 1992