– after Joe Wilkins’ “When We Were Birds”
I remember when we were turtles and the sand crawled along our bellies. A tired sun nudged us into dusk as gnats busied themselves about the pebbles at creek’s edge. And stones, we were once mighty stones, granite and mica, valiant steps on the mountain rising to glory, some quarried for slate walks for humans, so lazy with coffee mugs and cream on planked decks.
And trees. I was a red cedar, a vine maple fluttering at my knees like petticoats, her leaves multi-point and dancing in the breeze. One of my cousins, a distant oak, was felled for a cabin that never got built, left to the tides of years. I heard from him recently, a resurrection tale I revel in. A wood carver came upon his remains while skipping stones with his grandson, carried him home. The human is chiseling his spirit free. Soon to be an elegant, reclining Buddha, coy knothole belly, his flesh smooth and radiant for all to see. They will come, they will breathe deep like the ocean, they will pray paper wings, humble themselves, as penance demands. Time is a jealous spiral, whirling all, whether smoke or solid, mist or rain.
Carol Barrett coordinates the Creative Writing Program at Union Institute & University. She has published two volumes of poetry and one of creative nonfiction, PANSIES, which was a 2020 finalist for the Oregon Book Awards.
You can see more of her work in 6.2 and 8.2 and 9.2 and 9.2 and 9.3