Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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     for my mother

Today you’ll help your pagan friend lift her dead
dog’s body to the highest branches of a maple tree.
On the phone, you tell me it’s the solstice—I should be ready.

Today the light is shortest, and it’s telling
me to hurry as I sort the bottles to recycle—
glass and plastic, slivered green. Your friend won’t sell

her house that’s falling down, or spend the time
to fix it, but you’ll help her put her mind to rest
in bare limbs, closer to sky, the sun’s climb

already finished when I go outside to shovel
snow from off the car, and bring the paper in.
I won’t tell you that I haven’t found a way to love

so I don’t waste, or scrape the bottom—the granite step
against the shovel blade, the year creaked shut
with nothing gleaned. The women in our family kept

the early frost from killing gardens, fenced
the planted beds with chicken wire to keep
the rabbits out in spring. No measures left against

the time or weather as this year ends, you try to somehow make
it up. You’ll trail what someone else believes,
and haul the dead weight up the bole. You’ll take

what little light is left to do your work, to wrap
the bale-twine tight around the sagging bones, your boots
balanced on splayed branches, body braced above the gap.  

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