oatmeal :: peggy shumaker

Dry slide of Bob’s Red Mill
Extra Thick Rolled Oats
off the scoop —

tiny dustcloud
settling like ash
from stirred coals.

Waking together,
happy, not
our first try.

what to count on :: peggy shumaker

Not one star, not even the half moon
     on the night you were born
Not the flash of salmon
     nor ridges on blue snow
Not the flicker of raven’s
     never-still eye
Not breath frozen in fine hairs
     beading the bull moose’s nostril
Not one hand under flannel
     warming before reaching
Not burbot at home under Tanana ice
     not burbot pulled up into failing light
Not the knife blade honed, not the leather sheath
Not raw bawling in the dog yard
     when the musher barks gee
Not the gnawed ends of wrist-thick sticks
     mounded over beaver dens
Not solar flares scouring the earth over China
Not rime crystals bearding a sleek cheek of snow
Not six minutes more of darkness each day
Not air water food words touch
Not art
Not anything we expect
Not anything we expect to keep
Not anything we expect to keep us alive

Not the center of the sea
Not the birthplace of the waves
Not the compass too close to true north to guide us

Then with no warning
     flukes of three orcas
          rise, arc clear of sea water

night dive :: peggy shumaker

Plankton rise toward the full moon
spread thin on Wakaya’s surface.
Manta rays’ great curls of jaw
scoop backward somersaults of ocean
in through painted caves of their mouths, out
through sliced gills. Red sea fans
pulse. The leopard shark
lounges on a smooth ramp of sand,
skin jeweled with small hangers-on.
Pyramid fish point the way to the surface.

Ninety feet down, blue ribbon eels cough,
their mouths neon cautions.
Ghost pipefish curl in the divemaster’s palm.
Soft corals unfurl rainbow polyps, thousands
of mouths held open to night.
Currents’ communion—giant clams
slam shut wavy jaws, send
shivers of water. Christmas tree worms
snap back, flat spirals tight,
living petroglyphs against the night.

the oldest music :: peggy shumaker

Twice a year
creaky angles
of cranes
stalk squawk
whole meadows
grazing full

circle. Nesting
pairs fatten
one hatchling
apiece.
Wide, thrummed
wings about to spread

the oldest music
we know~
wings
drumming~
our breaths
blown

through wing bones
of long-limbed
relatives
gawky
on land,
melodies
rising.

what the deaf long to hear :: peggy shumaker

We might have predicted,
those of us who eavesdrop
every day on the world

desire to listen
to a daughter’s fetal heartbeat,
or the practical

need to know
when to shift
to a higher gear.

Even the Moonlight
Sonata
, wanting
notes of music to fall

into a life ghostly
as reflections from deep
in space. But would we ever

have thought
that on this earth
someone aches

to know for herself
the rest of the story
wind tells birch trees,

the syntax
of the splitting
maul, wrenched

out of chainsawed rounds,
the voice of fire
as it casts its spell

on cold skin,
punctuation
of popcorn,

how to know
when anything is
signaling,

ready, done.
Someone aches
to know

what clue
tells others
she’s hungry

for the difference
in sound when surf
breaks, when a heart

lurches, when water heals
after swallowing
a diver.

listen