Crow atop the electric tower, hear
me as I watch you listening in to
conversations between people who talk
only to themselves while to each other.
When I was a child I too stretched my wings
though they were only arms as if to catch
the breeze that would lift me above all this
world, forgetting that, sooner or later,
I would have to light again, no escape
forever; at least when I climbed a tree
I was out of the world if still in it.
And I never got higher than clouds but
in an airplane, but the wings were not mine
and freedom was only a suspension
between the earth and the sky; one might drop
either way but not on his own power.
And when will you leave the cable to go
to hang halfway again? Why will you cry?
Whom will you be calling? It sounds like
God, God. Only my eyes follow you flap
out of sight; when I look to your old place
I see a feather fall, so like a stone
into water, become the bottom of
the sea. When the wind blows like a current
the rocks come ashore and evolve someone
–someone’s heart, to be exact, precisely
my own. No wonder I can’t leave this be
–hind. I think that death’s a lot like flight
–there’s no real rest except to tuck your wings
and fall into that pause called perching. Then
if somebody loves you, you try again.
On her deathbed my mother says, I have
four children and you’re the youngest and I
loved you least. She smiles. I ran out of love,
she says, labor by labor, child by child.
I don’t talk back to my mother, and I
respect my elders. I bite my lip. Blood
comes but doesn’t breach the surface. Yes, ma’am,
I say. I’ll remember. See that you do,
she says. She shuts her eyes. It looks like sleep.
Seconds later she opens them again.
You may go, she says. I turn. Wait, she says
—send in the dog. She laughs. And then the cat.
Mother, I whisper. We don’t have a cat.
Then go buy one, she says. I turn again.
Wait, she says. Try the pound. They’re cheaper there.
Yes, ma’am, I say. What kind? What kind of what,
she says. What kind of cat? The kind you find
at the pound, she says. Any ol’ kind’s good.
Be sure you have it spayed. Yes, ma’am, I say.
So he or she won’t make any kittens.
Yes, ma’am, I say. Kittens are like children
to cats, she explains. Yes, ma’am, I say.
I turn for the third time. Third time’s a charm,
she says. She laughs again. And sighs. I reach
for the door, pull it open, and am half
-way across the threshold when she calls out,
You were your father’s favorite, you know. I
turn back. No shit, I ask. Yes, sir, she says.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Weber, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.
Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.