Rose Strode

Still Life With Spoonbillfor Russ In the fourth month of the quarantine in the nights and days when the curtainsdid not stir, the cicadas whirredlike a machine we could not turn off.Heat filled the rooms with itself,filled the street with itself, filledthe dark places under the trees. Everythinghad to move through it, had to breatheit in, feel it sludge through our lungs. You diedfar away. I didn’t know for two weeks.My insomnia returned. In the nights I try to imaginethe spoonbill wading in the shallows.I try to remember the details of its walk:how it raised its semi-palmate feetslowly, closing its toesas its foot emerged from the pondwithout a ripple, glidingits body forward, inserting its foot, stillfolded, in a new place, precise as the handof a dancer closing a fan. Thenthe other foot. Again and again. Its life.

As we sleep the river overflows its banks. The creeping edge of water isn’t deep, but tiny spiders in the meadow barely keep ahead, scuttling up grass and flower stems that do not even tremble as they climb. Each spouts a tuft of gossamer that opens as the breeze tugs it aloft. They rise like falling stars returning to the sky.
Later, we’ll speculate on what a flying spider sees while sailing over fields. Perspective changed by altitude, the world must seem as mutable as the spiderstuff they spin. And when we wake we find a wispy mist of cast-off strandings tangled in the grass. It is as if we stand inside a cloud of light, evidence of things unseen. But dawn turns the world of gossamer gold, then pink, then rose.

When the Rains Fell When the rains fellthe birds rosein multitudessearchingfor a place to restas land vanishedas mountains became islandsas islands submergedas the world becamea global oceanbirds circledthen fell intomarking the empty waterwith their bodiesthe living attemptingto rest on the deadthe living attempting to reston the living at reston the deadislands of birdsthat grew as they sankbirds becoming the thingthey sought, all silentthough sometimes oneor two summonedtheir final strengthto sing.

Rose Strode is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Poet Lore, and The Dillydoun Review, and is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Saw Palm and New Ohio Review. A student in the MFA program for creative writing at George Mason University, a recipient of the Gulick Fellowship at Valparaiso University, and a managing editor at Stillhouse Press, Rose enjoys rehabilitating overgrown gardens, studying Japanese woodblock prints, and attempting to teach herself to play the mountain dulcimer.