Endangered Species

Out the living-room window
I see the two older children burning   
household trash under the ash tree   
in wind and rain. They move   
in slow motion about the flames,   
heads bowed in concentration   
as they feed each fresh piece in, hair   
blown wild across their faces, the fire   
wavering in tongues before them   
so they seem creatures
half flame, half flesh,
wholly separate from me. All of a sudden

the baby breaks slowly down
through the flexed branches of the ash   
in a blaze of blood and green leaves,
an amniotic drench, a gleaming liver-purple   
slop of ripe placenta, head first
and wailing to be amongst us. Boy and girl   
look up in silence and hold gravely out   
flamefeathered arms to catch her,
who lands on her back in their linked   
and ashen hands. Later,
when I take her in my arms

for a walk to that turn on the high road   
where the sea always startles, I can see   
how at intervals she's thunderstruck   
by a scalloped green leaf, a shivering   
jig of grassheads, or that speckled bee   
that pushes itself among
the purple and scarlet parts
of a fuchsia bell. And her eyes are on fire.

Eamon Grennan, "Endangered Species" from As If It Matters. Copyright © 1992 by Eamon Grennan.  Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Source: As If It Matters (Graywolf Press, 1992)
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