Curtis Bauer

Landscape with Swallows

I am in Iowa, on the edge of town
and all the space in the world
will never help. Or the sunlight.
Or the omelets I make for my wife
so she can remember
La Gran Via and Las Ramblas.
She wants to be a bird
flying above Barcelona
until she tires.
She wants to sit on someone’s sill
and watch the streets
as if from their eyes.
She hardly sleeps.
She moves her hands in circles above her head.
Her baths are long.
The bed and her shoes
are too big. Each night she tells me
I might wake and find feathers on our sheets.
She has grown fearful of sunrise.
It melts the frost on the foxtail,
discolors the sky,
the power plant steam. She says
the squirrels in the oak
have started to treat her like a bird;
they are aloof; she is offended.
Life would never be as it had been
when the birds with silver-blue bellies
flitted and glided from chimneys to trees.
They played with shadows
all afternoon like a child surrounded by space,
grass and time. A day to sit
and watch swallows fly: forgotten or never
known, beauty flying,
shimmers above the ground, radiant.
She wore a feather
hat. Her favorite
color, a rush
of black, red and blue—
just like moments
before sunset.
She thinks her soul
is filled with the beauty
of what remains
after it has gone, after
the sun has set, and dark,
like the tail tips
of swallows,
covers us.
Now she wears her favorite gown—blue,
sleek echoes of dark, the back open
as if leaving room for wings.
Her feet have become invisible.
She no longer listens when I say
I don’t have feathers on my sleeve.
The air around her
becomes sacred when she sleeps.
Her eyes are always moving,
her lungs beat urgently.
The shower water glides off her skin.
She has become small
enough to fit in my hand. She fears
she hears noises unlike other noises.
She stands on the corner
of Elm and Birch,
skin shimmering
in front of the sun,
watching the maples,
the traffic thin,
the sound of tree-hidden swallows.
She picks at the threads
clinging to her sleeves.
The sun sets.
The trees are silenced.
Feathers the color of sky
fall from the branches,
black tipped as if singed
by fire, as if mimicking
the approach of night.
Every morning I descend
the steps so I can
be here waiting for the sun to rise.
At this moment
I’d like
to be shoes,
the stretch
of gravel roads,
the dark, a plank gate
slap against the barn,
the smell of leather,
of cattle, dung covered
hay and straw,
a speck of grain dust.
The sky burns as if
lit by shivering swallows,
the tips of their tails.

Curtis Bauer
From the poetry collection Fence Line (BkMk Press 2004)
Poem, copyright © 2004 by Curtis Bauer
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse