CATHERINE L. SCHWEIG
★ ★ ★ ★
Image by Laura Adai
Overhead, birds migrate.
Here, below, oaks shed skin;
their skeleton arms rattle
with each fickle turn of wind,
each foraging squirrel leap.
I hear the hollows of deserted nests;
my fledglings are now men,
my womb withers with the leaves,
autumnal gales nudge me to fly.
Underfoot, the remains of summer,
honeysuckle browns on the fence,
so, today, I inhale pines instead—
hemming the Chesapeake Bay,
beckoning swarms of blackbirds
with open ligneous limbs.
I must shed last season’s wardrobe,
toss it off into the dry riverbed,
bring a match for youth’s bonfire,
harvest crops before the freeze.
This evening, dark clouds of birds
float across cold waters,
woodsy shores open to swallow them,
most feathers find timely refuge.
In the meantime,
I clumsily flap my wings,
wait for instinctual flight to set in,
feel frost collecting on their weary tips;
No perch in sight tonight.
The edge of Yoder Pond is noisy in the fall
when the geese gather, outside my window.
My whistling kettle competes with their honks.
I pour the tea, inaudible over the ruckus, over
speedy descents onto a water runway, the
cacophony of water fowl scrambling for life.
Yes, the edge of Yoder Pond is noisy in the fall
when beavers fell trees after sunset, last minute
reinforcements for dams they built last summer,
engineering heat for the icy months ahead.
I listen to the animals’ climate-driven movements
play out around me. While sipping a lavender brew,
I wonder if there will be a shift in us too:
some inner gauge to spring us into action,
to summon our own survival with a noisy splash,
direct us to gnaw through the thick woods of our greed,
find warmth in our hearts before we get caught
in an eternal winter of our own making, frozen solid
right into the pond. Like the little swallow that lost its way
in the last blizzard—an icy prelude to our own doom.
I remember you, rooted into the pasture,
set against autumn’s breath as I walked by:
your capillary arms reaching into life, bare
and delicate, like morning and moss, and
the soft consideration that beauty remains,
even after all adornment has decayed.
Yesterday, cawing winds sprinkled you with
a murder of crows. Today, you beckon chirping
cardinals from across the fence. The brevity of
these black and red-feathered frocks hint at
all those little moments that open and close
before us, like mouths of newborns asking
to be nursed. Now, I want to shield you from
winter, offer you milk from a warm breast,
forgetting that this pause, is also necessary.
I seem to forget many things these days, and
wonder if I might also stand, unadorned, before
cold and rain, my green gone, extended into
life’s opacity with branches open—trusting
I am inhabiting fields where I’m meant to be,
syncopating with earth, releasing leaves
into the mist, when cold winds come tugging.
Catherine L. Schweig first began writing poetry as a teenager to explore identity. In 2012 she founded and led an online project dedicated to honoring women’s voices from which five anthologies emerged, including the first collection of poems by contemporary women of the Bhakti tradition. Catherine frequents the woodlands, feeling most at home in nature. She and her husband live near Powhatan River where they teach an ahimsa lifestyle and mentor students in Vedic psychology.