Thursday May 23

SpiresElizabeth-1 Elizabeth Spires is the author of six collections of poetry, including Worldling, Now the Green Blade Rises, and, most recently, The Wave-Maker (Norton, 2008).  She has also published six books for young readers, including The Mouse of Amherst and I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings (FSG, 2009).  She lives in Baltimore and teaches
at Goucher College.

Green Girl
I remember our first spring.
How, mornings, afternoons,
I held you in my arms
as we walked the long blocks
touching the trees, each
a sentinel to the unseen.
Rough.  Smooth.
The solid world. Your hands
unfurling like leaves,
like days repeating, enlarging,
and you new to it all.
Four months old, then five, then six…
My green girl!  My green, green girl!
This was before our spring
changed into summer.
Before you and I were separate
words.  This was before
you knew the words for everything.
*     *      *
Now you are eleven, your long hair
brushes your cheekbones as you swing
in the bare backyard on a January afternoon.
I stand at the back door listening
to the song you are singing, your voice
as clear as water from a spring:
Ye’ll break my heart ye warbling bird
that wandered through the flowery thorn.
Ye minds me of departed joys,
departed ne’er to return.
Flowers and thorns!  A girl on a swing
will sometimes sing, unthinking, a sad song
just for the tune, and hearts must be broken
a time or two—the song says so—
but clear as clear, I will carry
this picture of you wherever I go:
easy in the moment before the moment
of change when you step into the self
you have slowly been becoming:
my daughter, girl on a swing.

Up in the barn’s
dark loft, a kitten,
its mother gone,
is crying.
A hand—not mine—
has put it there
to keep it safe
from the fox,
but a cold dark night
alone in the big loft
is not what it wants.
Its paws on the trap
door’s precipice,
it looks down at us
and cries, cries
until it is hoarse,
its cries following me
out into the night,
and many sleepless nights
to come, where,
tipped into terror,
I’ll paw and push
away the dark with
a small, scared song:
Close your eyes.
Close your eyes and dream
of striding strong
through a long long life,
the fox forever gone.
Morning will come.
It will come, I tell you.
It will come.


Photo Credit: Jerry Bauer