Radium Dream

We come at the wrong time of year by a hair
or a week, and the brown birds flying onward,
out of reach. My son tilts his head. A minor star-
burst of cranes lights the far corner of
the sky—stragglers, fewer than expected,
but enough to glitter the air with strangeness—
these birds with their necks not tucked in, forming
their odd cries. When they land by the shore,
their toothpick legs appear hardly enough
to hold up their robust bodies. Often

I think—“That's not really happening is it?” as though I
were acting in a film or a vision of a life. On the
highway, they warn us not to drink—too much
uranium, leached down from the abandoned mines.
The cranes twist their necks to stab the quick-
light of fish. Do cranes know how to
swim? And why is swimming so different than flying?

Now, aloft again, they apparate with uncanny
quickness into cloud. How does the eye lose
them—is it how high they rise? The bones

in my son’s hand, they tell me, have stopped growing
too early. They act like this is a problem, but I
have radium dreams—a brightness: Him, me, you, the
cranes, and in them nothing dies.

Copyright © 2019 by Sheila Black. Previously published in Mas Tequila Review (Spring, 2012) as “Bosque.” Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.