Wednesday, July 31, 2019

In the Fox's Eye: How the World was Made 7

Here's another prose poem from 

How the World was Made

It's one of my favorites in the manuscript. It comes from a time walking along the banks of the Raccoon River in Des Moines, Iowa during the winter, following tracks in snow - back when the river froze...

In the Fox’s Eye

The fox sniffs the base of a few trees, then climbs the bank up onto the rail line. Thin, orange, he trots down the center of the tracks, between the rails, towards me. Beyond the fox, headlights and red tail lights pass each other on an overpass. Lights from the houses on either side of the tracks flicker through bare branches. The fox stops ten yards away, studies me. How long has it been since I’ve seen myself through wild black eyes?

The fox shrugs me off, slips back down to the tree line, decides to forage among house garbage. I descend off the tracks a few minutes later, lean against a hollowed-out cottonwood. Sirens. A dog calls out. Other dogs return the call. Dead milkweed pods rattle against each other. How long has it been since I looked at the world from inside the detail of dead winter weeds?

Two deer cross the tracks. There are so many creatures living inside the city, moving along the tree and weed corridors, ditches, empty lots. Yet, it’s always a surprise when I see them. They pause, blow smoke. Someone throws a bottle against the overpass wall and the deer disappear. A celebration or an argument. Snow begins to fall. How long has it been since I moved in this dark land between predator and prey?

I wait until the ground is covered with a thin layer of snow before moving out of the shadow of the cottonwood and ascend up onto the tracks. An owl glides over me. A quarter mile down the tracks, under a streetlight at an empty crossing, I find three drops of blood on the new snow. Brilliant red against white. The red of summer in a grey time. How long has it been since I felt snow on my skin, the cold night sinking in?

It’s almost time for the freight to pass. The owl is out there, sailing over the roof tops, wings pulling everything beneath it into the silence that guards the borders of death. More sirens, closer now. Somewhere out there, an eight-year-old boy is dreaming he is an owl. His feathers are pulled off by invisible fingers, one by one. He inches down a tree, stands in the moonlit snow, alone, his cold birdskin glistening. He’ll wake with a lifelong desire to roam railroad tracks in the middle of the night.

(Previously Published in Blazevox)


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