The White Paws

The fox with broken legs has a gift others do not. He removes his paws and they go walking through the woods at night alone. The paws stop to touch pondwater, to brush a blade of saltgrass. They tap the backs of passing beetles in the dark. At dawn, they return to the fox, whispering of rabbits curled in damp caverns, of green oak leaves and sand. The fox listens carefully; he gleans secrets of the world this way. He learns of the earth without lifting his nose from his long, broken limbs. Always, when the paws return they say we missed you, always he listens. How young, how simple they seem beside his face which is mottled and pocked. He gentles the paws like children. He hopes when he dies they live on without him. When his bones rattle and shake in wind, he hopes the paws walk through autumn leaves, pad softly through newfallen snow. He dreams they will drift across a black lake dappled with rain; that, above it, they’ll rise; they’ll glow like four pale moons.

Related Poems

Memory is Blood Soluble

I am still the old man with the street organ and cat, turning the same crank and expecting moonlight. What I remember: smoke of houses on the riverbank. Storm on mute. Temple broken, lamb-entered. You loved my bones because they were white. In the gathering blindness, you bandaged my body, and in doing so made it my body. I can’t remember which chord heals visions or causes them. Which summons a cloud of b­­­ees from the stone, or conceals your shape behind a flame. It is every guitar I have found in the gutter. Every name on the edge of being gone.

One Body

            I am born in a field
of cornflowers and ripe wheat
            wind in the black gum trees            
                        late afternoon before the storm
and the men are cutting the field
            working the mower in circles
                        coming in and in
toward the center of the field
            where I crouch down
                        with the rabbits, with the quail
driven into this space by the clackety mower
            because I want to see
                        how the body goes still
how the mind, how the lens of the eye
            magnifies to an emptiness
                        so deep, so flared wide
there is everywhere field and the Source
            of field, and only
                        a quiver of the nose
or the flick of a top-knot feather, a ripple
            so faint I may have imagined it, says
                        yes, says no
to the nearing rustle in the last stand of wheat—
            and now it’s quiet, too quiet
                        a soft trample
a click, the cocking sound, a swish
            as the men steal in to take
                        what they want
they are clever, they are hungry
            and because this one body is
                        my birthplace
my birthright, my only homeplace
            my nest and burrow and bower
                        I understand
my mother is wheat, my father is wind
            and I rise in a tall gust
                        of rage and compassion
I rise up from the mown and edible
            debris of the world
                        wrapped in a bright
net of pollen and stars, my thighs
            twin towers of lightning
                        and my voice
I am a storm of voices, snipe and wolf
            snow goose, dolphin, quail, and lark—
                        Stop this. Stop it now
I say to the men, who stalk closer
            keen on the kill, late light
                        on the steel of their rifles
and they are my brothers—they are my brothers
            and I love them, too
                        Look into my eyes
I tell them. See for yourself the one shining field
            Look into my eyes
                        before you shoot

The Future is an Animal

In every kind of dream I am a black wolf
careening through a web. I am the spider
who eats the wolf and inhabits the wolf's body.
In another dream I marry the wolf and then
am very lonely. I seek my name and they name me
Lucky Dragon. I would love to tell you that all
of this has a certain ending but the most frightening
stories are the ones with no ending at all.
The path goes on and on. The road keeps forking,
splitting like an endless atom, splitting
like a lip, and the globe is on fire. As many
times as the book is read, the pages continue
to grow, multiply. They said, In the beginning,
and that was the moral of the original and most
important story. The story of man. One story.
I laid my head down and my head was heavy.
Hair sprouted through the skin, hair black
and bending toward night grass. I was becoming
the wolf again, my own teeth breaking
into my mouth for the first time, a kind of beauty
to be swallowed in interior bite and fever.
My mind a miraculous ember until I am the beast.
I run from the story that is faster than me,
the words shatter and pant to outchase me.
The story catches my heels when I turn
to love its hungry face, when I am willing
to be eaten to understand my fate.