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Dawn Paul​



The neighbors’ tabby cat sleeps on my patio table,

while a procession of clouds crosses the sun, blink of shadow, then light.

From the harbor, the crack of a gunshot—

the start of the weekly sailboat races out of Marblehead.

The newspaper lies on the counter, pages flipped by ghost fingers

on the breeze from the open window.

I stand at the sink, cutting the pale-pink skin off a chicken, twisting the legs and wings.

The cat wakes, stretches in the sun.

What is its name?

What does the neighbor girl call at night?

Still in Two Places

When I left for Japan

this corner of New England was tender and green

lilacs just coming into bloom.

Here, today, by this farm pond

that spreads out behind an old stone dam,

dragonflies dart and grapple,

the click of their clashing wings

loud in the still air.

In Tokyo, people moved like enormous schools of fish

voices and music blared from tinny speakers in doorways.

Here, even the old dog who greeted me in the driveway

has gone away.

A frog plops into the water and I think of Basho’s poem

and the pond at Hakusan Shrine, even there music

wailing from a roofed box set on a rock, or maybe prayers.

On the other side of this pond

sun and shade shift under maples and pines.

A long black snake cruises in curves across the water,

sliding over lily pads.

Tokyo seemed lifeless somehow, endless rows

of tall buildings packed against each other

like frost pushing up from frozen ground.

I spy a heron under a buttonbush in a wide-legged stance.

It gives an annoyed shrug of its shoulders

raises its great wings, lifts off leaving me alone

with the shush of water

slipping over the dam that holds the pond

and falling to the rocks below.

The Other Coast

If you stay in a place long enough

it tells you things.

I’ve learned the language of sky and wind

to expect lightning when clouds pile up

and bear down like a mountain of slate

fair weather if they roll by

puffy and round as sheep.

I know to harvest my tomatoes

when the attic vent whirls

and electric wires whistle.

While a south wind only brings

mud-salt smell of eelgrass

and another summer day.

Bold sparrows peck neat triangles

into my sweet ripe pears

and deer do their stealthy raids

rising on their back legs to branches

in the gray light before sunrise.


Here, I don’t know what it means

to wake to clouds like a light gray blanket

from horizon to horizon, the harbor

reflecting that same gray

rippling in a steady south breeze.

Even the seaweed that lies slick and green

on the rocks at low tide

has a sharp new scent.

The deer, more curious than wary,

stop and give me a good looking-over.

But the small brown sparrows

chitter and dive into thickets

like they’ve seen the Devil.


What does it mean when the wind dies here

and the harbor goes smooth as an empty plate?

Hours before sunset, yet it feels so quiet, like everyone

even the deer, have bedded down together for the night.

Still in Two Places
The Other Coast
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