Rhonda Williford

(after a photograph Scanno by Mario Giacomelli)

Two auras surround the young Italian boy—one visible
and the other streaming from the female figures wrapped in black.
He strides boldy forth, fed by the rich applemeat they have gathered
and hoarded, tendered him in small scoops under thick blankets until
the strips of muscle grew, attached to sinew, formed direction.

They unfolded their black capes to the night sky, captured
all the passing sparks, savoring a favorite desire for comets. And now,
they huddle their coats close, not overwhelmed by the darkness,
but protecting so much light—a lifetime of birdfeed
for the largest, fiercest spanner of skies. They turn from the boy,

but this is only after years of turning, turning toward him,
whispering morseled, choice words through the night—
bits of plush worms fed to that center muscle of heart
to grow and grow. All so he could be what he is now—
a bird perched for flight, someone for whom you could wish

many things, but would never have to wish coursing
in the veins, a fervor to take one necessary step after
the other. The old women carried him high over
the landscape, pointing out this pure drink lake,
this wolf dressed in leaf. They sliced open the soil for him,

showed him the very crevice where seed banks in dirt,
is broken, then soars. And they held the baby before him,
showed him where the cloth tucks under chin, where
the mother cups her hand so the cries would be settled.
They showed him all this, the comet flashes specking

their eyes, their breadkneading hands stroking and
and stroking. And now, they pass by so quietly
that they might miss your gaze, but don’t think
for a moment that you have missed theirs.
They have loaded his being to circle the skies

so that years later, there will be no surprise when
out burst from his eyes that glint that was planted
of stardust and flour—and under their feet,
which then may be long gone, a pattern worn deep
in the earth an arc of a comet asserting the light.

Rhonda Williford
Rhonda Williford is a lifelong resident of the Washington, D.C. area. She works as a labor lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board. Her chapbook, One Wide Sky, was published in May 1997 by The Argonne Hotel Press.



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