1. Spinning Yarns
The new year begins in winter white embroidery—
trumpeter swans and needle-slim herons piercing
drainage ditches. Lichen gilded barns sag elegantly
into their eternal rewards. Orcas articulating
in a deep channel sound like barrels dropped
into the sea. On Best Road headed to La Conner
I hit record and speak out each bird as a method
to ignore the calls. Bald eagle on telephone post.
Bald eagle weighing down the spindly tree in the yard
of the strawberry farmers. Raft of stout teals
dabbling in the cattle trough. Overflown by a hawk
(Coopers perhaps?). There are so many prayers
knifing through the blue. Swaybacked horses
huddle onto swales of red twig dogwood
in the glinting floodwater fields. If cormorants
and tundra swans clot the elemental powers,
then the seasons are moving as they must. Hiss
of a text begs for intercession and I long for a kettle
and cup. Bucks are dropping their antlers.
A king tide is cresting. Nothing more human
than the cool cross current from child to parent,
broken to fixed, well to ill, sigh to moan: eternal migrations
of white birds on the shore, black birds on the sea.
I intercede when I must, pick up the thread and mend.
Geese cackle down the rains at the inclination of my chin.
Rails of splintering driftwood stitch a patchwork
against the ashen tide. Runnels of floodwater
are studded by hunching bitterns and ice crystals
across the razed fields. A quilt with the pattern
duck foot in the mud swells sodden across a fence rail.
Fitful sleepers who toss and turn beneath such an array roam
dry land in their dreams. The quilt I slept under was a sawtooth
star. In the hunting season, it took on some chill and damp
through an opening in the wall of my childhood bedroom,
garish orange rind fungus embroidered the folds. Tide gates
shudder with the cresting rivers. In the last days of the winter
hunt men in camouflage tote tripods and it’s impossible
to tell if they carry rifles or cameras until they come close
enough to shoot. The marked safe zone is clear on the map
but feels uncertain on the trail inside the noise of gunshots
and the honking of birds. Swans are dark billed and ferocious
up close when their necks plunge into the ground and rip up
clots of slugs and bracken root. Such white birds ambling ungainly
as they take off from the ground are utterly graceful in the air,
like figures shuffling into an embrace after a long stiff conversation
about divorce or medical bills or patching the hole in the wall.
The motif of the swan maiden is nearly universal. A young woman
is bird and girl both—casting off a robe of feathers she is caught
and married. I pull the damp cloth close to my skin, closing the hunt.
Edited by Patrycja Humienik.
The featured image is a photograph by Patrycja Humienik. Author photo by Tim Aguero.