Today I sat on the crest of a hill
and watched a ramshackle family throw
their throats wide open, a song's raucous and
careless handful in the day's dying light,
while I leaned forward on my knees,
soundless for once.
You weren't there.
Would you have told me why my heart
flew like a cardinal, then, and
perched precariously between my teeth?
Would you have seen the chains on my wrists
or the howl I tucked away quickly,
quietly, in my back pocket?
I remember your birth
as the newest strand of spider's silk spun
in a webbed cradle sprawled across
the grass, the springtime budding of green wood
newly grafted to the old oak,
I remember the kind embrace of
its roots while I watched
you unfold, knees to chest,
the warm bark pressing into my skin
with dreams shaped like paper castles and
cardboard crowns, the iron stove
in your grandmother's kitchen and the
thick curl of her barley-colored hair
as she gathered you and
your little sisters close.
My own tree is not a tree at all.
We are whirligigs and fungal spores and
rustling vines that wither with the summer,
generations like migrant birds
blown across the seas,
so when you'd uprooted yourself
and walked the line of the earth's equator
with me, I thought you might—
I thought you might
Up on these cold ridges now
the hours are grown thick with night.
Beside me, a katydid laughs like
glass bottles and you are here, blinking
moths from your eyelashes.
In the valleys beneath us, the song
swells still louder
(I had imagined you forgot
the slow waltz of autumn's fire, the deadly
lullaby of winter, and me:
but I have traded iron chains for magnolia
and you wear pale honeysuckle
like ballroom gloves,
we bound up our wrists so long ago
to let those flowers grow)
and in the darkness, our family’s
makeshift ties are bloody as roses and
stronger than new wood.
They are calling us to them, crying
sweet comfort, that we are
gathered from the ends
of the earth, that we
belong, that the sun—
the sun in the east
is rising soon.