As a child I parleyed with animals, stuffed and real.
Making my kitten pilot of a boot, I guided
from one end of a string the dizzy flight and collapse.
I was fearful of people as well as things,
and my faithful toy shepherd with his painted face
sat by me on the bed in the gloom.
I was disdainful of dolls as weak people.
In the favorite story I told myself my parents
were made over into fair-limbed, brave angels
who smiled into their god’s eyes when summoned.
I was benevolent, afraid to let go of this image
at night because I couldn’t hide deep enough
under the covers to be overlooked by death,
the angel bending over me who had been wronged.
I read histories of queens, regal and barbarian,
whose leopard’s eyes restrained man or wild beast.
I rambled along tidal rivers and in the marshes
where the green-golden grasses dazzled the sun,
and felt the ache of sea-air in my lungs.
I saw water spume near Atlantic cliffs.
I examined lichen. I saw great light drown darkness.
Then at thirteen I lay in the bleak bed before sleep
and heard the pleadings and the murderous kisses;
and burned, like a bear his fat, my soul.
I quaked at the sound of my voice whispering, No,
or turned my face to the wall
and wept salt onto my knuckles.
In the serene light of sun-up, before sparrows
tumbled up from the earth, whispering and singing,
and the exquisite sea and sky mobilized
their heavy, blue currents, I was consoled.
I walked through beauty without knowing why
and told no one, wanting nothing else to touch me
and never to move anyone in any way.
I hid away from the house and learned the dark
was not a dream but could show the pale gravel
of a real driveway. I saw for the first time
later the new moon and the full moon
in one piece. I no longer feared the night,
night like a bear at ease in his wide habitat.
In the greatness of such space I said, This is me.