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Two Poems

100 Feathers Tied In Bundles (Leda, after the Swan)
++++++++++from “Use,” by Derick W. Burleson

How cruel to pluck so many
small instruments of flight,
we think, seeing these laid neatly out

as if to market. How cold
and afraid the poor fowl
must be:

jet black (Cayuga drake),
soft gray (domestic ganders),
pure white (of course, the swan).

We are poised to steal
every downy last one, to rescue
each bird, piercing thin skins
with pointed shafts until

we see her—avian—
picking a ginger path through canary
grass reeds. Some down clings
weakly to fine ankles.
Her tender feet

featherless, bruising free.
From one goose-fleshed
bright coracoid plumage falls,
and that she bundles
with strands of pale hair,

and as limbs emerge bare,
she weeps.


100 Origami Cranes in Flight
++++++++++from “Use”, by Derick W. Burleson
++++++++++for Mirabel.

Tonight, fever-vision sends you
all manner of paper cranes:

large crimson ones, palm-sized.
Apricot birds with silken finish.
A tiny, yellow chick.
One that dances, regal, bent,
red-crowned head inclined toward your heart,

and you (your dream-self)
remember: this heart is failing.
You begged it to last-the way it beats through winter,

counting line-caught salmon, what’s left of the moose.
In panic, you shoo the cranes,

who leap skyward,

calling “danger”; one-hundred klaxons,

who feast on bad grain, reminding you how brief
the season, how voracious

even the most auspicious of beings.
As you wake, you reach

for the catch in your chest,
catch up a bridle, race out the crooked door
to call and capture your bay horse.

Michele N. Harmeling is a poet and essay writer whose front door opens out onto the mountains of Southcentral Alaska. She does not believe in straining seeds from one’s jam; her son is named Walker-yes, as in “Texas Ranger.”