Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Instead of Death I Welcome the Stranger

Walking his dog along this winter-lit trail
ghosts of our exhalations mingling
in a dialogue of their own. My mother

has just died, I want to confess to him—two breaths
before we signed the papers, collected
the gold rings and necklace she never
took off. Instead of sighs I invite the dog,

who is a river of joy, to flow against my legs,
when only hours ago I gowned up, masked
against infection, to usher my mother
into the unspoken dusk that is

the other side. Night, and candle smoke
casts its signature into invisible
waters where my dead loves keep vigil.
Instead of accepting the erratic language

my heart speaks, I practice rest steps up Paradise
to sixty-eight-hundred-feet elevation, grateful
as Mt. Adams awakes beneath a shroud,
for the traveler who held my hand

across the ice field, as I traverse this new terrain
in sandals, camera in hand, the black
bear crossing my path, the hoary marmot
whistling into the mist.  

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