Speaking My Own Name
John Cage once said the quiet sounds
were like loneliness, or love, or friendship.
Without poverty of spirit, he said, one loses
the kingdom of heaven. One recent afternoon
a man was sitting in my garden, writing
in a little notebook. I watched from the kitchen
for a while, watched the way he let the mosquitoes
cover his face and arms while he wrote,
the way birds landed around him, mourning
doves and cardinals, the way the shy cat
jumped onto the back of his neck to purr.
Then he stood and walked away, leaping
easily over my garden wall,
and I noticed that he'd left his notebook behind:
An early June morning after heavy rain
I found snakeskin after snakeskin lying in the grass.
Some of them were whole, as if the snake had slipped right out.
Some of them were torn up and shredded.
And I who greet no one, except perhaps the common birds.