The house lay drowsing in the late afternoon,
a cooling shade crept across the valley,
punctuated by the crow’s harsh caws
as it landed briefly, rose up, and flew away.
From room to room I lingered,
caressing the door jambs, the walls,
in gratitude to Providence
for saving us from lightning’s strike.
I’d rarely seen a more even cut
than the one that split the Norway spruce,
when lightning shriveled its living sap,
and woke us with a thunderclap,
raining wooden arrows and stripped bark.
A board sawed cleanly as a two-by-four
hurled to earth, tearing up the hostas.
High in the tree, another perched perilously.
Lightning jumped inside the propane tank,
and the fireplace heater roared into flame,
as loud as wind, gushing black smoke that stank,
while we fled in a daze, and the firemen came.
The creature must have slipped inside unnoticed,
through the open door that stormy night,
as the firemen were moving their equipment,
their lights a tunnel from darkness to darkness,
and everything else was shadow and rain
falling quietly after the fire was put out.
Within that shadow moved another, never noted,
not knowing where it was, or how to leave.
All else was shadow and the sound of rain,
after the lightning died away, and the fire was put out,
only the sound of the rain was left
softly falling to earth, and at last we slept.
They are manuring the field next to us.
Inhale, exhale: odor of animal,
signs of cultivation, the life cycle.
Two nights past the fire, loud scufflings
disturb my rest; on the third,
I am startled as a wild, black bird
soars up the stairs in panicked flight
and orbits my head like a planet out of whack—
a trapped, lost bird that came in by mistake
and now wants out. To show the way,
I go down first, flick on the lights,
fling open the door, “This way to freedom,
it’s so close, if you can only see it.”
And the bird flies out the front door at last.