A Little Traveling Music

Like its first three notes, rising to beg
for a fourth, then a fifth, a song does not lie
down inside of nothing. And though a rock
may look complete, it's got a history, it's still
midway between cause and effect. Chuck it

into a pond, and a whole chain of actions
sets off weed slime and bottom silk, redirecting
the traffic of fish. Still it's hard to keep in mind
that we come from elsewhere, from stars, rocks,
words, plants, countless invisible bits.

Maybe it's not a lie to say my mother
was once a bird, or two really, one who'd
soar, blue into blue, the other a groundling
endlessly pecking. How she loved binoculars,
loved to reverse distant and close,

to be off grieving on a high branch
as I tugged at her skirt. What she had to say
about joy could fill an ashtray left out
in the wind, so perhaps it's from her I learned
to tremble on hearing the word future,

or to shudder now when the Chinese fortune
says my luck will change. Sudddenly the present
seems better than I thought, worth holding on to.
But neon rain splashing the restaurant window,
and those mysterious hot pink characters

make it clear not all words are so intent
on defining things, fencing off this fluid
unfolding. It's possible that a bird
flying off doesn't have to mean gone—
it could mean: Imagine that bright going.

by Betsy Sholl

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