Carol Sanford grew up penning poems and stories in middle Michigan, earned a master’s in creative writing at Central Michigan University, and retired after thirty years of teaching composition and literature in public school and universities. She enjoys leading workshops and giving poetry readings. Her work has appeared in Spirit, Plainsongs, The Windless Orchard, Parting Gifts, Moving Out, Bear River Review, Creative Nonfiction; and online at Ragazine, The Zodiac Review, and New Verse News. She spends all four seasons in Midland, Michigan.
The maples have given up
their yellows and reds
for the bare bones of November.
The day I was born
my father hid in his deer blind
hoping for a trophy buck
while the doctor fumed
he wasn’t in the woods himself
enjoying rituals of the hunt.
My mother felt abandoned,
thought it served my father right
that she would bring home
a second daughter, no first son.
Thought I heard a pack of coyotes tonight,
their domestic little yaps and bloody shrieks,
so I went to the window—outside, black as a cave of bats.
Half a block over, past scattered trees and bushes,
people had just stepped out of the American Legion
drunk, horsing around.
I travelled straight to our cabin in the woods
where we stood outside on winter nights
admiring Orion’s shimmering belt,
listening to distant coyotes
and the abrupt snorts of deer bedded in pines.
I’d go in, happy to huddle by the wood stove, waiting.
He’d stay another fifteen minutes, a man savoring night.
Inside, he’d report an owl’s hoot, a meteor’s flare,
the stage of the moon, and I always had questions.
We were great conversationalists. And now
in the silence since his death
I’ve grown greedy to know even more of him—everything
he believed, out there in the beautiful dark.
When the moon began to blacken the sun
cattle in the hay field where we stood
milled about then formed a line along the fence
and followed each other, faces eastward.
As the air cooled and eerie twilight descended
they turned west, reformed and marched.
Some bawled when stars appeared. We felt no terror
but grasped why ancient peoples believed the moon
swallowed the sun, why Egyptians saw omens
presaging the death of reigning kings.
Two mornings later, seventeen red-tailed hawks
gathered atop a hedgerow of tall poplars.
One or two at a time they flew in from all directions,
weaving on currents in a cloud-free blue sky,
no dropping down to hunt. Drawn to the mystery
we attempted to explain the scene
through any science we could muster.
I wanted to hear an old myth of intention—
how the hawks convened to decide whether
we deserve to be warned. Of what, we don’t know.