Poem for the Unborn
It’s almost spring but it shouldn’t
be. It’s February. A daffodil
shoots up with a wave worthy
Wordsworth. I smash it under
the heel of my boot.
It’s almost spring but it shouldn’t
be. A worm that should have been
buried by snow is washed into the gutter
by warm rain. I try to pick it up,
return it to the dirt but as I flick
my finger under its body, I tear
its soft winterflesh. What do I know
about saving earthworms in February?
It’s almost spring. The warbler
warbles against the cat upon whose neck
I forgot to attach the bell. The feathers
in his mouth are so small I almost
believe they are whiskers. Wish.
It’s almost spring and everything
is hungry but the blueberries
ripened and rotted too soon.
It’s almost spring and the red
shoots of the coyote willow
suck red dirt out of the red
snow melt. Red did not used
to be the primary color of spring.
It’s almost spring in February.
You are not ready, and yet
the world conspires to make you so.
This world is good at making
time turn back. Reset the clock.
Call February April. Carry that dying
baby warbler in your hands.
Bury it in used–to–be snow.
There are fourteen hundred carburetors out here
but you tell me none of them will fit. I can’t quite
believe you but my statistical brain has nothing on
your I’ve–been–to–the–junkyard brain so we keep
picking through metal and broken glass. We are so far
out from the highway—practically to the lake. You
realize no one can see us. We’ve done it in backs of cars
before. We’ve pretended that you’re the teacher
and I’m the student although we’re both still students,
at least we were until you dropped out. We spend
more time fixing cars than studying German. We spend
even more time listening to records in your bedroom even
though your mom’s home. You like the one best where
you pretend you’re a Mormon Bishop and I’m a new
convert who isn’t quite sure what the protocol is. If you,
Bishop, say it’s OK to touch me there then who am I
to argue? I who don’t even know how to drive yet although
in physics we did learn exactly how to mix gas and air
for perfect combustion. You like the way my legs curve
around a fender. Perfect height. Perfectly hidden. I don’t
mind. I’m going to college early and am going to buy
a new car, the kind with fuel injectors and powered windows.
You can show me how to pull pipe through pipe. Bleed
the breaks. Change the master cylinder. I will store this news
like I store your semen. Tuck the info in the folds, impress
my professor later, or even maybe my bishop,
that I know where the carburetor goes and just how
to get this junkyard car moving.
Red maple red maple the valley sprouted
red maple. Native Gambel Oak didn’t do
the red thing people liked so much in the valley.
You don’t have to love your native plants
or even love your native town. My boyfriend
did not love his native mother nor his native
father and they, four kids later, didn’t even
love their native children. They ended up
in duplexes because native houses
love only married couples. At least in Utah
where marriage is the native tongue. My
boyfriend’s tongue was short and I wouldn’t
use the bathroom at the house where we had sex
in his mother’s bed where surely she’d had
no sex since she gave up her native
husband. My friend Rebecca called.
My boyfriend put me on the phone. She
said, I’ll measure mine if you measure yours
and we both came back with five inches
three-quarters, although, later, I found out
her boyfriend’s was fatter and this is an illegal yard
stick. I should have stayed with my native
boyfriend but I loved not so much the idea
of red maple but the idea I could plant a tree
and it would grow differently than Gambel
Oak. I understand the thrill of gardeners now
the way they buy starter after starter, planting
seed after seed even though nothing is supposed
to grow there and though you might end up living
in a duplex, it’s a duplex with a lot of red
leaves in the shape of stars to remind you
of other planets and other countries that may
become natively, if naively, yours.
Thirteenth Wedding Anniversary
I just wiped my make-up off.
It was getting in the way
of thinking. Now, I’m naked, like
a blueberry, unbushed,
taking on water when it rains. I look
drastic now. Serious and a little drenched.
I need help with the fence. My face
should look open. Inviting. You have
a hammer. I have some posts and wire
and some gaunt–looking ravens.
They have nowhere to perch so
they have nothing to eat.
I would have asked to borrow
your hammer but I have bad
aim and the ravens can’t wait for my
thumbs to heal. I will kneel on the ground
with you. I can place my hands between barbs.
I can lean into the wind because I’ve lived
in the wind for a long time. You can tell
by these lines on my face that I’m willing
to let you see, if only because this fence is faltering.
I can’t tell which side the cows are on.
No matter which side I move to, you
stay on the side of bent wood. You pull
wire. You never would have let the cows
get out. I wipe off the rest of my mascara
and go pick blueberries.
Watery, wrinkly blueberries.
The ravens follow me. Who am I to brush them
away? They’ve been with me as long as this face has.
I put what’s left next to the fence. You
lean against uneven wood. Eat a few.
Pick up your pliers. Training these lines.
It takes forever.
Nicole Walker is the author of two forthcoming books Sustainability: A Love Story and Microcosm. Her previous books include Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.
More from Vol. 34, Issue 3
To Sing, In Dixie // The Extinct Fresh Water Mussels of the Detroit River // The Ivory Gull Under the Bridge Over the Flint River // Noon in a Corner Café: The Sign
Louise Labé, trans. Leah Souffrant
Andrew S. Nicholson