The Long Heat

In the garden the cat pauses
to lick the dew from her paws.
In morning the day is still forgiven.

Night’s chill lingers in the grass.
A dove dips water from St. Francis’ feet
before vanishing between hackberry leaves.

Like hens protecting chicks from a hawk,
Oaks pull back their shadows;
the sun circles the empty sky.

The cat ignores the mockingbird
chattering from a fence post.
Sunflowers umbrella her like saints.

Later the air hides beneath hawthorne.
The basil bends its head to the ground.
Only a butterfly struggles across the yard.

Rising from beneath the deck, the cat
stretches before slipping into the house.
The grass continues its crisp watch.

By midnight the air breathes again;
the sidewalks glow like morning beds
still holding our shape’s warmth.

(Breadloaf, Vermont Summer 1990)

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