Cardinal Song

Crushed leaves give me the year he gave me Illinois anew. Not then a walker of woods—except for girlhood dashes to the red barn with fallen hogs long dead in the abandoned yard where we laughed and swung on rope into old straw, I had given up the woods for straight A’s, makeup, church and books. All the while the Sangamon River crept past my life in its slow brown way. Cardinals watched like feathered blood. At fifteen—so late!—my own had finally come. The quiet boy from Florida I loved, who without shame once bought me Kotex tampons, held my hand through Carpenter’s Park. Red birds always a photo before were the thread we pulled to the yellow tree where the boy lay on his back and looked up the trunk. I, a follower, followed strangely. Our four legs splayed like spokes. Beside him, above us, the tree’s black arms were bathed in leaves so much like sun my words split wide, a radial silence, and while I knew the whole earth spun, my heart was a still red hub.

2014
with thanks to c.c.

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