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Category archive for: Meg Kearney

Bonsai

You carry the tree home to me

like a baby from a house about

to burn. It was the potential

for fire that drew me to you,

though now, as you hand over

this gift I’ve longed for, I

worry if I can share my life

with something else so needy.

I study the instruction book: direct

light, lots of water, human breath,

and, every day, hands placed on

the moss at the base of the trunk.

Touch. Talk. I can do this. I am

determined this tree will live,

though when I discover aphids, tufts

of cotton caught in the leaves

like tiny laundry blown by a storm,

I panic, pick up the phone —

I am not afraid to say I need

help. The woman at the nursery

calms me: This happens, she says. Don’t

worry so much. I try — yet spraying

insecticide, I think if junipers had eyes,

this one would be crying like a child

in the tub. I’m told I did the same

as a baby — screamed as my mother

scrubbed my face raw, baffled by

the indelible dirt on my cheeks

until my sister, to my rescue,

realized they were freckles.

My mother never had a child

with freckles until I came along,

as I never had a bonsai with brown

spot — another phone call and soon I’m

mixing vitamins, spraying for lush color,

praying for leaves that spring back

when squeezed between forefinger and thumb.

When I must go away, I call long-distance —

Is it drinking enough, getting lots of sun?

Don’t leave it in the sink unattended;

it likes to be read to. I need you to say

everything is going to be all right,

say the tree is fine. Your voice across

the wire is a rain I’ve needed

for years; I tilt back my head,

softening into a girl only you have

recognized. The tree’s body contains

what I can’t yet explain.

When I am home, you pick me up, carry

me to the bedroom. Your skin smells

faintly of juniper. We burst in a heat

so green it singes my eyelashes.

from An Unkindness of RavensFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2001
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Longing

Terror is a mirror in which your eyes belong

to a woman wearing sunglasses. There she is

now, pulling out of the parking lot across

the street in a new convertible, bottle

of Cabernet brooding like a teenager

in the front seat. Longing is that bottle

of wine you may never open. But there is

the woman again, lighting a cigarette

on the corner of Sixth and Twelfth.

St. Vincent wraps a shadow around her

shoulders as she flicks the cigarette

onto the ground and ducks into the dark

of Fat Tuesday’s. You have spent years

following this woman across the city,

gathering her cigarette butts

and stuffing them into your mouth.

Longing is a form of terror. It is

the same woman hovering over postcards

in a small White Mountain town. First

you are surprised she has anyone

to write home to. Then you realize maybe

she’s been following you. But that’s

impossible. Because this is your

mother. She abandoned you long ago.

from An Unkindness of RavensFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2001
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Curse

The difference between a raven and a crow

is the intent of their blackness. The crow

is a raven’s shadow. The crow is a memory

of a raven. Only a raven can transcend

the raven to become a prophecy.

We dream of crows but the raven lands in our bed,

wakes us wide-eyed and sweating rivers, rivers

of our body’s water running hot between

our breasts, hot across our forehead and into

our own black hair.

It’s a river I’m drowning in now, a river

fed by my own murder of crows, and I

alone can save me. Two thousand years ago

perhaps we rescued each other, and a thousand

years ago a raven slid between us.

Now here we are, clinging to opposite shores,

each reaching a hand out toward the river’s

tongue, thinking somehow our tongues

might save us this time, break

the spell if we could just name it.

I wish I could talk beyond surviving, beyond

breathing, but I have a raven in my mouth,

I have a river in my lungs and no name

is coming to me, only blackness, the lateness

of the hour, the sound of wings beating.

from An Unkindness of RavensFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2001
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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