Anne Shaw


Go to the window. Count the birds.
How many seagulls are there? How many cries?
You must work hard. Like this. Like this.
The single musical phrase practiced over and over.
The work is intricate he said, running his fingers
over the carved green wood. Sometimes it was iron,
sometimes tin. Tin squares on the ceiling
and every one a branch, a flower, a leaf. Crystal
in the window seemed most beautiful in the sun.
The small cut circus. The dog with small gold teeth.
The light as it looked coming through the leaves
on that particular summer night, when I was eight
or nine. The light and its withering into dusk.
The circle, sometimes leaf and sometimes
stone. The single recitation, over and over:
I said He leadeth me into pastures
of green and gold
I made
it up I said He maketh me lie down
beside the still, blue waters,
where all is still and still is still

the work is intricate
where He annointeth my head in oil
a single musical phrase
in the presence of mine enemies
the buzzing of the mower. The buzzing
of my father, working harder. How
many seagulls, then? How many psalms? Or
was it water, running from the hose?
I do not count the cries of gulls.
I count the birds in flight, the stones, the picnic table.
The girl who found the mussel on the beach.
The single stand of crabapple, like smoke.

Anne Shaw
“Enumeration” is from Undertow (Persea Books, 2007), and first appeared in Phoebe, Vol. 28, Spring 1999.