Barb Lundy works in development and communications for an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. Her poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Rattle and Mac Guffin, among others, and are forthcoming in JAMA and Potomac Review.
At the edge of winter, while the snake still sleeps
I can tell you the story of The Listener. When his
hair flows free his heart speaks his every word.
Eyes spark a galaxy of stars that circle his head.
But watch. On certain days he glosses his hair,
pulls it skull-tight into a ringed tail. Pulls song
and stars close. Other days, when hungry eyes
search his, he ties on a red bandanna
and knots it hard behind the tail. That way
few can catch his thoughts as he passes.
On crowded days he tops his glossed
bandannaed head with his high felt hat. Takes refuge
beneath its rim. Hums his center to quiet.
He does not know that the gifts of forgotten fathers
fill his veins. Like the snake, instinct foretells
his movement. He does not know his ancient eye
reads heart words, awakens soul stars invisible
to others. He does not know that his ritual hat tricks
can trick him. He does not know that
to listen The Listener lets his hair flow free.
When the devouring begins
when blaze eats up oak and blue spruce
when yellow iceland poppies flash to ash
the feast is held on arbitrary acres.
The ember from a campfire
the slice of a lightning strike
sets a siege in motion
lead by the impulse of wind.
Resistance becomes a feeble pledge.
Thunderheads and the river course
force the burn to a random end.
The flames die without ever looking back.