Friday, June 26, 2009

James Baker Hall 14 April 1935 - 25 June 2009

The Mother on the Other Side of the World

a yellow cat from the next field over hungry finds

her way to the feed bowls inside our toolshed atop

the deepfreeze our striped gray lets this happen

then moves low to the ground

into position crouching outside
staring at the only escape

too frightened now
to eat the stray too stares at it

neither can see the other
for the longest time
something dark emerges

almost audibly circles

of their silence their

motionlessness pulse out
into the greater commotions the spins and counterspins

including the entire backyard the neighboring fields
many horses the adjoining areas
each of us moving in God knows

how many different directions at once

these two cats one almost wild

the other almost domesticated

get their version of it

line up perfectly
great longing compacted

their own little seesaw

the whole backyard seesaws

the mother on the other side

of the world

many fears

but only this one silence
the stray’s tail was all I saw

of her when she got out of there

that night beginning the plot of this story

I was to see about that much of her

again the next night in my headlights

at the side of a narrow road
a half mile away

yellow eyes

echoing outward the darkness it was
gonglike and out there in the expanding middle

I was to see more and more of her

in the days to follow

she hangs out in the culvert

I pull off the road and climb down
with a plastic cup of food

emptying it out on a scrap board I took down there

she stays at the other end of the culvert
as though she’d never ever come closer

sweet talk doesn’t run her off
but she prefers quiet it seems

occasionally she’ll have a dead mouse

or chipmunk prominently displayed

a gift for me perhaps or maybe

a reminder of the role

she allows me to play

she never lets me see her
lick herself or sleep

James Baker Hall, The Mother on the Other Side of the World (Sarabande, 1999)

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