Even in the dream, it is long past the possible
when I uncover my breast and hold the baby
close enough to drink. How helpless he is
to resist, helpless as the mind in a deep dream
to stop and change direction. Though, on waking,
the mind remembers our grown daughters
and the room where we sleep, and beyond it,
the outside made white with smoke from a fire.
Remembers, yesterday’s eerie milk-gold light
we walked through, and stopped a moment
beside a baby fox. In the road, wasps lighted on his skull,
their black bodies beading his torn-apart torso,
while gnats and flies sipped at the glistening.
And the work of those winged things seemed a fire
chewing through manzanita and alder,
Douglas fir and cedar, the maggots and flies
and wasps carrying the forest out of the fox,
the way the fire carried the forest out of the world.
You asked then if a mother fox could feel sadness.
And because last night my mind had used a memory
of my body to deceive me, had pressed my son close,
believing if he drank, I could keep him,
I want to believe the dead fox was a twin,
a mirror image following yet behind the vixen,
the way a dream can shadow the mind,
and the mind helpless against our stillborn son
that lives inside my dreams and runs silent
as a wild fox behind our daughters. It was dusk
when we turned to go, so quickly the wasps and flies
rose together, as if the black-and-yellow robes
they carried through the milk-gold light had slipped
from the death they had just been covering. All of us helpless
against the beauty of the hurt world as it burns.
Copyright © 2022 by Julia B. Levine. This poem appeared in Southern Review, 2022. Used with permission of the author.