CANTOS DEL CORAZÓN
I left my other body at the office
behind my desk in the glow of the screen.
It will still be there for me
on Monday morning.
If I were a mountain lion, I'd kill a deer today
I hate the sun; it reminds me too much
of the glint of airplane wings above
the noplace I am going.
My other heart was full, dozing, nearly
But this beast heart is empty and screeching.
It reaches for the brain and wants to
pull it down, maul the coiled cortex
Ay, mis corazones, why don't you
sing duets anymore?
Even songs of protest
LOST: ONE-FOOTED ADULT CROW. REWARD.
Maybe it should have said: "FREE" instead of "LOST."
Maybe it's the same crow I hear down the block
puncturing the morning with insistent counterpoint
to the soap-smooth Sunday dove songs.
And "LOST" to whom? One creature's lost
is another's escape. But now that it's back
among the power lines and madronas, this crow
really could be adrift, homeless and dressed
in shabby black, roosting in doorways
wrapped in atrophied wings.
There's the obvious question of how the crow lost
its foot, what led to its pet name of Hopalong, Long John,
or, perhaps, Lefty. Did it happen when it was young or grown?
Or was it born that way, its whole life a balancing act?
Crows are so smart. Curiosity or boredom
could have gotten the better of it. And with sharp-edged
suddenness, the idea of spending its maturity in someone's care
became more necessary than ludicrous: kind words,
a guaranteed ear, the certainty of scheduled meals,
a place to sleep with both eyes closed.
And about that reward: If the crow is returned,
accepts again its cage and perch or even comes back
on its own to reclaim its low-ceilinged kingdom,
will it be win-win all around? The owner regains
a live-in jester. The crow can relax, take a load off its foot.
And the alert-hearted Samaritan, who at first
refused the crisp twenty, now slips it in
with the other bills on the way down the back stairs.
It's almost like one of those Asian teaching tales-
how the unfortunate open window leads in as well as out.
Forest fires raged in Idaho that summer when you pulled off the Interstate
east of Boise, parked, and cut the engine. Your whole body vibrated with
the churn of tires, slipstream of distance spreading like a concrete wake
behind you. The air was thick with char; sky, smoke-damaged the orange-gray
of an August steel town dusk. You held the wheel, didn't you, as if afraid to
let go, watched plumes rising over ridges of evergreen hills, turned the music
off. A car door unlocked beside you. A woman stood, wary, pistol holstered on
her belt, infant strapped to the front seat, belongings piled in back. You were
faceless, weren't you, simply part of her scan. You walked behind the buildings
for a better view of the fire; when you returned to your truck, she was gone.
You can drive for days in this country, for static-filled nights on end, plotting
the points on a graph of your restlessness-Albuquerque, Salt Lake, Reno, Yuma,
Bakersfield, Spokane, Laramie, Lincoln-assembly line of inter-
changeable destinations, miles strung between like troughs of wires.
Sometimes people stop on these highways, never get back on, hole up,
flickering, in disappeared motels to wait it out, adopt a mutt and a
TV Guide, hotplate dinners and beer cans. Not you. Because
you think you will just keep driving, follow taillights as if Polaris,
your life held to the right of parallel yellow lines (divided, then broken),
a bird that cannot sleep, its instinct only for migration, pausing
to feed and briefly rest. When there's no arrival, what can leaving mean?
Somewhere the mountains are being consumed; ash is falling like souls.
© 2002, 2003, 2004 Jim Natal