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Flocks of Never

By
December 8, 2008

 

We had to throw things
away to sell our house,
make it seem like we lived
sparingly—a minimalist life.
As if anyone lives
with only one blue shirt
in the closet,
one pair of shoes illuminated
by a single light bulb swinging—
40 watts and a string to pull,
frayed twine and a soundless
plastic bell, to turn it on,
to turn it off.

For years, I watched ivy
spread over my neighbor’s house.
Each year the leaves
turned from green to red
to gone. When the leaves
fell, flocks of never
migrating starlings
ate the purple berries,
tugged off the stems.

For years, from my kitchen window,
I watched Siberian snow geese
winter along the Columbia river.
Each day they’d rise
like heavy rain clouds blown by wind—
white plumage like morning sky,
black wings like shadows,
like rain. Sometimes, so early, the sky
still the color of ashy smoke,
thousands of geese would disappear
into a whorl of sudden snow.
In these moments, I’d imagine,
though I never saw anything
like it, the spray of twelve gauge
buckshot entering the body
of a goose in mid-air,
and its mate, its mate for life,
would honk, drop down,
honk, follow the limp body
to the ground.
And because this is
a love story,
the falling goose,
the following goose,
the strange replaying of this scene,
the replaying of something
that did not happen,
never disturbed me,
the way it does now,
as I stand in my new house,
in my new closet
with no string to pull.
Instead a switch, like all the other
modern rooms, easier I suppose,
to turn the light on, to turn it off.
And strangely, with no geese
at my new kitchen window,
I have traded scenes: the repeated falling
goose for the last moment
in my old closet. Standing in the dark,
even my blue shirt gone,
I pull the string a final time.
I turn the light on to dust
in the corner, turn it off
to the empty dark,
thinking, how the severity of nothing
can fill up a room.
And because I cannot resist
I turn it on and turn it off
again and again, like I did
when I was five, maybe four,
when the simplicity of light
and dark was enough
to stay an afternoon.

 

Drew Blanchard is a doctoral candidate in Irish Studies and Latin American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, Cream City Review, Notre Dame Review, Meridian, and elsewhere.

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