The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Yvette Neisser


At first it sounds like an underwater flapping,
or a paddle's slap on the surface,
as if something were announcing its presence—
and the same sudden noise comes
from the other end of the marsh, a call and response.

Alone at dawn, I sense
that something is teasing me.
In this unfamiliar wilderness
of holly and white pine, I wait
for the mystery to reveal itself.
Wind skims the water.
Marsh grass rustles the surface.
A heron glides in the distance, disappears.
A long silence, and my head snaps
in the direction of the far pond,
where the flapping has now become visible—

Snow geese. They have ceased their honking
to take turns churning
still water into a spray.

This is not for me. I am the invisible one,
a foreigner, irrelevant
in this avian world.


When the grief began to lift
I didn't want it to go,
didn't want to separate mother into present tense
and father into past—

I wanted your death to remain shocking,
your blood always on the t-shirt,
your voice always on the machine—wanted to hold on
to our last conversation, sun pouring through the windows
of my new apartment as I carried the phone
through each doorway, describing to you
the size of each room, the hardwood floors,
the angles of light, the graceful twist of a live oak in the yard—

didn't want to believe
my discovery one day at the beach
on seeing a father and daughter walking together,
their shadows in the sand:
my father has no legs for walking, has no body;
if his shadow were here,
it would not resemble
this father's shadow.


All day, V's of snow geese
emerge from fog,
slide into one another, fluid,
marking the sky with black wings
as if all that mattered were the migration
to another climate, a different sky.

Then the sky returns to white,
as sound to silence.

Until at day's end,
a flaming pink
the clouds clear just enough
to reveal the entire sun
falling to the ground.

Next morning you discover their stopping-place,
a coastal marsh, and find that yesterday's black
birds are really pure white with black-tipped wings.
Thousands of them lift into the air at once
and the very surface of the water seems to rise,
so many black-edged snowflakes
falling upwards.

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