One cold snap and the deer appeared in their winter coats,
grey like wolves. I would have hit them, huddled
by the roadside at dusk had it not been for their enormous eyes
that stared strangely, as if they knew me.
The angel was sitting on the cedar fence when I turned
into the driveway and spoke to me again of joy
and the power to choose, reminded me of the cherry tree
that bloomed the day you died and how the thrush exults
wildly, over and over, like church bells calling us
to Mass through the narrow lanes when we were children,
insisting that the beauty of a human life is equal
to the song of a bird and somehow I knew this was true.
Then I saw the angel was an owl, her enormous wings
so white and wide and eyes that stared into me
and I wanted to know what she saw but just as I turned to look
she lifted her wings, and drifted, silent as a star into the night.
Stretch marks ridge the lake’s surface, molten ice
thickens like stained glass windows in the old church
where you married. Water puddles beneath the timber dock,
wood ducks huddle and groom, their yellow beaks sift
plumes, the way old women absentmindedly fluff
pillows on island terraces. Gone the flocks of white geese,
like bright snow lights flying south, gone
the crushed tangerine carpet that skirted the stripped maple.
Fish breathe in slow motion below the stiff winter sheet,
opaque as your still gentle face when you said, please
don’t feed me anymore.
PATRICIA HEMMINGER is a graduate of Drew University’s Poetry and Poetry in Translation MFA program. Her poems have been published in several print and online publications including Spillway, Parabola, About Place Journal, Dragon Poet Review, and The Ghazal Page. She is a science and environmental writer and associate editor of Pollution A-Z published by Macmillan.