Shane Seely

Orion throws a leg across the roof and it is deeply night: the stars are rueful; their light is thin and wavering. Just two porch lights light the street. The waning moon seems, cresting the park's bald trees, a worn-out tooth. Inside, even though the breath-fogged window's cool, I'm warm. You're warm, too, blanket-wrapped, cocooned against whatever weather might intrude. No need to go out there. It's lunacy, even the dog knows it: he's smartly snoozing fireside. Instead I'll read you poems: Rumi's love songs, maybe a sonnet from Neruda. Better, let's pretend that we're raccoons snuggled in an oak-gall against the brutal season. Come quickly, dear, for all too soon crocuses will erupt in ballyhoos, and, south of here, the heart of every goose will beat out north, and dormant maple roots will flush with sap, and skinny squirrels will loot their stores, and suns will climb to higher noons.


Each spring, we hear the doves that lilt their tilting little song outside the windows we've opened to the softening air, and finches, too, warbling in the pine, and tufted titmice scolding jays that sack the feeders. Still the jays arrive, blue-jacketed, and insist upon their share of seed. The hyacinths we planted in the fall are pressing nibs of pale green ink to garden beds and spilling color everywhere. The doves have gathered twigs and laid a nest. Hear them singing? It was four springs ago we married, love. Kiss me here, the air softening our wintered lips. The doves are settling in to incubate a clutch of eggs. Come, join me in this ribbon of sunlight tossed across the bed. In linen sheets we'll nest and wait for daffodils.


Little glyph, small enough to crawl inside the O you've landed near—oh, what am I to you? I must be landscape, weather, sky: mere circumstance. I'd like to think my size makes me invisible to you. Just now, I nearly smudged you with my thumb, made powder of your lacy wings and thread-legs, ground you into the grain of the paper. About my reasons, I'll say nothing, whether by accident or grace you haven't died. I am no more deft than I am kind. Still, on the page, beneath this noonish light, you just might be a consonant or vowel blown from an ancient alphabet and out a dusty window, a runic mark without translation in a tongue I can't pronounce.


Unknotting knots of blankets tied in sleep the night before, I find a tiny creature: a spider shaken from its dark now seeks another dark, now spiders across the sheet toward whatever safe spot might relieve it of its sudden pain of light and fear. In the bathroom, where you're brushing your teeth, you don't hear my startled gasp at seeing it. I lay my hand, palm up, between the spider and your pillow's shadowed pleats. It raises filamentous legs to feel along my edge. No recluse, wolf, or weaver, this spider is a stranger, strange to me as my hand is to him: its warmth, its creases, its sudden pose of slack passivity. The spider skirts my hand and disappears over the bed's far edge, leaving only a strand of thread marking his retreat. Could I blame him? What platform could appear that I would not suspect was mere deceit? In what great reaching hand would I believe?

Shane Seely'sfirst book of poems, The Snowbound House, won the 2008 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press in November 2009. He is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches composition and creative writing and acts as Assistant Director of the university's expository writing program.