BIRD SANCTUARY; BOOKS FOR THE LIBRARIAN; IN THE COMMONWEALTH
By: Connie Soper
The last time I saw you, it was still summer.
Great blue herons rose from the pond,
over cattails and grasses releasing
their summer sounds. Mud swallows
looped crazy circles over our heads,
like the sharp blades of knives
as we hiked to the restored barn.
In death, birds of prey struck noble poses:
screech owl with wings unfurled,
red-tailed hawk gripping a little stuffed mouse
in its talons. We were allowed to touch
the soft down at their throats, the pretty
yellow beads sewn into sockets.
That’s the way I remember it now.
Sometimes I wonder how you
remember me best. Together,
arms and legs splayed across the sheets,
four-winged creatures drowsy
in the moment just before sleep?
Maybe you prefer a lesser scene, as if
peering through the wrong end of binoculars:
tiny and far away, an imperceptible turning
before I knew what it was, before
the light was knocked from my eyes.
And like those exotic birds in glass cases
you might display me once in a while,
with taxidermic skill stroke
the perfect Audubon colors,
arranging my feathers the way you want.
BOOKS FOR THE LIBRARIAN
Before the barcodes and scanners,
she stamped cards tucked into the backs
of borrowed books; tended the counter
lined with baskets of yellow pencils.
Every day she prowled Dewey-Decimaled stacks
in search of the obscure and forgotten.
She could point out Caracas and Karachi
in an atlas, compute miles to the moon.
What’s the main export of Uganda?
A question worth asking, she would say.
What happens to memories the brain sloughs
onto the heap of forgetting, when the weight
of remembering is too much to carry? These days
the library comes to her, rolling in on a cart
to the care center. She slips paperback
mysteries under the fold-down seat
of her walker—sentences a jumble,
plot sliding off the page.
Still, books take her to new places.
She runs her fingers along the spines,
places them face down on her nightstand—
like little tents in a wilderness
she will return to, a story interrupted.
IN THE COMMONWEALTH
Perfect green hillocks rise between hedgerows
and old stands of black walnut.
Cedars of Lebanon, seeded in France,
still thrive on the mansion grounds;
fence slats define a pastoral tableau.
Horses fatten in the field, consider tourists
with bucolic indifference—descendants,
perhaps, from DuPont’s stables.
The tour begins across the mowed path
at the portico strong with six white Roman columns.
In the dining room, cardboard cutouts
form an animated theater around the table:
Jefferson, Franklin, Jackson, Dolley with her teacup.
Madison’s manservant stands in the corner,
holding a tray—Paul Jennings, sold for $200 in 1846.
Imagine the conversations, the docent says,
a polite discourse of gentle persuasion.
We walk up the Venetian-carpeted stairs, along dusky
pink-flocked walls adorned with ornamental sconces,
to the library replete with books by learned men.
Their supple leather spines shine warm shades
of butter, bourbon, cherry. In this room,
Madison conjured a republic born of ideals,
plucked from the measured words
of poets and philosophers. He sat at this desk,
overlooking Blue Ridge vistas, the fertile soil
and great expanse of his plantation, of all he owned.
Connie Soper has come back to poetry after a long hiatus, and is trying to make up for lost time. Her poems have previously appeared in Calyx, North Coast Squid, Ekphrastic Review, Windfall, and forthcoming in VoiceCatchers, Rain Magazine, and Verseweavers. She is also the author of a non-fiction book, Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail. She divides her time between Portland and Manzanita, Oregon. She loves and is continually inspired by the time she spends at the Oregon Coast. She writes about other travels as well, when there is no pandemic.