Out With the Monarch, the Vole, and the Toad

Hear Patricia Clark reading this poem. To live as they do, vulnerably, in the air, the wing-assaulting wind, to breathe the wind, the cool September air, and watch the Sweet Autumn clematis twine and climb. To live with the scuff and smatter of leaves at the burrow hole, the dying fall of the pink geranium petal, the tomato stalk blackening from last night’s chill. To live with the thought, the weight—the dead branch pitching down to shatter in the yard, the hawk’s shadow, the days ahead without sun. A full moon spills its cream over Dean Lake and boys at midnight putter on their scow. An exhalation from the lake rises to surround them, safe with a light, though far from shore. To live with water’s depth and dark, some force that wants to pull things in and down. To live hidden, hurrying, hurt. The toad finds the upturned pot and crouches there, but the snake crawls across the flagstones’ warmth and surprises it. To live the death, the thrash in red, the awful struggle, to let breath go. To hunker down and yet be lifted up, skin tingling, synapses firing, the heart a-beat, awash, eyes wide, nose lifted to what is perceptibly near.