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Gathering


ISSUE:  Summer 1984

This old woman
has been drawn like a bee
by the smell of fresh apples.
She hovers near the stand,
hands clasped in front of her
as if she’s giving thanks.
Moving closer, I can almost hear
the hum of her wings.

*

The wishbone knocks in the pot
with the neck, the heart, the brittle ribs.
I hang it on a nail above the sink
where it dries for a month
while the last apples fatten.
I bake bread; pick blackberry leaves
and chamomile, store them for tea.
The cat paces the kitchen, looking up at the wishbone.
Long afternoons, when the late sun
streaks through the blinds, his paws
jerk in his sleep: sparrows lining the windowsill,
explosions of feathers and blood.

*

Vines reach up from the grass.
Their tendrils grip into wood, insistent
as fingers, slowly pulling the shack down.
It looks like a woman
drawing her lover down.
All around, the smell of wet leaves
turning back into earth.

*

The black walnut tree
that pushes against the house
has already lost its leaves.
In the darkness, one by one
the nuts pull loose from their stems
and knock on the roof.
And in my sleep, an old man,
leaning on a cane of close-grained wood
as weathered and bent as he is,
makes his way up the back steps
with a slow, unsteady footfall.

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