The pond is sheathed in ice, a duck troubles the reeds, the air around us still enough to hear the baby stir, but we don’t know where it is yet. By the force of our longing it is getting made for us, as thrilled people, palms full of seed, long for the chickadees to light, and they do. Light.
I came upon the gnawed torso of a seal, silver fur agleam against the sand like a coin thrown down in a losing bet. What left this bounty of meat on the beach to rot? I watched the neighbor’s small boys skirt the dead seal the way sandpipers tease themselves in the surf, dodging up and back along the body’s shore. “It’s dead,” I told their father as he ambled behind them up the beach. He called to the little boys, his voice borne toward them on the mild breeze. “Boys, come back,” he said, and they did not.
No longer if we’ll get cancer but when, the doctor said. Now questions accrete around the irritant like pearl: Not when but how? Not how but whom? And then why. And then why not. I take a can of ashes to the beach and empty them into the wind. Outside the trash man collects bottles like a miser rattling his jewels, tossing them onto the growing heap.
I used to love the run-up to a storm, watching from the porch as the grown-ups hurried to bring things in, my mother rummaging through drawers for a flashlight, cursing: nothing was where it was supposed to be in our house. It can’t be so, but the only people I ever remember huddled in the basement were my mother and me, suspended in that eerie half-light like bats. We’ve just spent a week like this, my mother perched in a chair above the water keeping watch for the next bad thing. We were happy so sometimes she’d let the vigil rest, the sentry of her shoulders easing to a more receptive pose, a quarter moon, until something called her back to the watch, mother first no longer but this white, foremost light. You can read by it. You can see.