We heard swifts feeding in air,
sparrows ruffling dusty feathers,
a tapping on stones, mud, snow, pulp
when rain came down, the hiss of fire.
Counting bird eggs in a dome of twigs,
we heard trees fall and learned
to name them on a page for school.
And living among trees, in the shadows
of their leaves and seeds, we had
the mystery of numbers, we believed,
from figuring angles of the sun
or counting stumps in a widening field.
Each day saws subtracted boughs
for books of double algebra, equations
in a text we carried home
past hacked down pines.
Conjuring the spirit of the grove,
in a circle we sang:
"mark out planes of shade and light
that seedlings might root."
One morning in spring
trees showed winter skeletons
through smoke, abrupt curves, bent oak.
We were stripped of words to cast a spell.
"Algebra cadabra," someone shouted
pointing to a vanished nest
we remembered as braided of moss,
ivy tendrils and spider's silk.
Every day our name is changed,
say stones colliding into waves.
Go read our names on the shore,
say waves colliding into stones.
Birds over water call their names
to each other again and again
to say where they are.
Where have you been, my small bird?
I know our names will change one day
to stones in a field
of anemones and lavender.
Before you read the farthest wave,
before our shadows disappear
in a starry blur, call out your name
to say where we are.
What time do you read? cicada in the pine.
The hour of the frog pining for flies.
The hour of the gourd twining its vine.
Sail, watermelon, into summer's heart.
Cicada, what time does the oleander say?
The butterfly hour in Italy.
A musk melon rind surrenders green
to the luna moths of Bellagio.
Cicada, what do you sing to the agitated
leaves? A villa here, a villa where the wind
divides the air, the waves.
Cicada, what an old saw you're singing:
come love me merry in the leaves?
Troubadors carried that tune before time
took itself in hand with ratchets and gears.
These melons are summer boats
pink as the heart of a whale. Sing, cicada,
to a metronome of tides and stars while the Lombard
housefly bides its time on the watermelon rind
for a chance to interpret the measure.
Copyright © 2012 -2013 by Colette Inez. All rights, including electronic, reserved by the author.
Colette Inez has authored ten poetry collections, most recently Horseplay from Word Press. She is widely anthologized and received fellowships from the Guggenheimand Rockefeller Foundations, twice from the NEA, and won two Pushcart prizes. Formerly a visiting professor at Cornell, Ohio, Bucknell and Colgate Universities, she long taught at Columbia University and appeared on public radio and TV. The University of Wisconsin Press published her memoir The Secret of M. Dulong, and her poetry has been set to music by Pulitzer Prize Composer David Del Tredici in Miz Inez Sez, performed in New York’s Symphony Spa"Forest Children" first appeared in Arts Journal; Lake Song in The Yale Review; and"Cicada Song" in The Bennington Review .