As if from nowhere the sky
blackens with many-thousand
starlings, grackles, red-winged
blackbirds. Their raspy harmony
overspreads the world
with unrelenting song,
like it could lift me, carry me
with them to freedom.
The clatter quiets as the birds alight
above the creek, bare trees
leafed with dark bodies--a theater
gone silent in the middle of an aria.
Then in a new swell of sound,
they lift again, swoop, swirl, vanish,
leave behind a haunting, a vacancy,
like waking one morning
your husband beside you, and falling
asleep that night, a widow.
It's a difficult kind of sky
the expert declares--no clouds
for reference, glare too bright.
Warm sun, slight breeze,
it's perfect for anything else.
Bald Eagle streaming south.
I raise my binoculars, can't locate
the bird. How well
I remember learning
to distinguish house finches
from house sparrows;
different flight patterns
It takes work. Kestrel
heading our way from the notch.
This I see, rapid wing beats,
rusty back flashing in the sun.
When will I recognize
the darkness that deepens
as each August approaches--
the month he took his life?
The Lady and the Lion
For five days mountain lion tracks eluded us.
Narrow roads wound, claustrophobic,
between steep mountains. Frigid streams
barreled through snow and ice
with the bravado of teenage boys
at a carnival. Noses, fingers, toes grew cold
beyond feeling. But there were still
no lion tracks. On this Utah hunt a reporter
from Big Game Sport followed my husband
and me, his already-titled story to chronicle
a strong young mother braving the elements
to succeed in a man's sport. Late on day five,
a gift--lion prints in crusty snow.
The dogs picked up scent, took off, treed
the cat in a tall pine. I can't see it very well,
our guide told us. It's not a big cat,
not what we were hoping for. It looks young.
I'll leave it to you. So it wasn't going to be
the monster male of every hunter's dream,
but we needed success, at least
for the reporter. I would strive always
to be a good wife, ideal companion. In truth
I was happier watching birds, listening
to trees breathe, didn't relish the killing . . .
What would you have done?
When the animal slid, lifeless
from the tree, it was just an adolescent,
last season's newborn, now on his own,
years from maturity. At the moment,
I became blood on the snow, a starving
child in Siberia, a baby on a bayonet.
And I was the shadow walking silent
to the truck, riding cold back to camp,
willing that bullet back in the gun.
The reporter left, The Lady and the Lion
destined to be notes forgotten in a file,
photos undeveloped. It was the last time
I fired a weapon. Sometimes a martyr dies
and no one realizes it,
not even those responsible.
Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother, a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her career involved breeding and training horses with her orthodontist husband on their farm in Chadds Ford, PA. She has had poems published in the likes of Aries, The Broadkill Review, Sugar Mule, Requiem Magazine, Jellyfish Whispers, Fox Chase Review, Mistletoe Madness, Storm Cycle, Poised in Flight (All from Kind of a Hurricane Press), On Our Own (Silver Boomer Books) and The Widow's Handbook. Her first book, Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Competition and she has twice won the Delaware Press Association Communications Award in poetry. She lives on the banks of the Red Clay Creek in Delaware, where she is surrounded by the natural world she loves.