Cathryn Essinger

Looking Up from Down Here I am sleeping on the floor tonight to comfort an old dog who can no longer make the leap onto the bed, old friend who should not be left alone tonight of all nights. His big soft feet smell green from the pasture, and his breath comes in slow puffs of air that make his cheeks flair. I have made a pallet for myself, but I am beginning to envy him his cushy pillows. But, looking up from down here, I can see now how everything fits together--here the repair my father made on an antique table, and above it hangs my mother's crystal chandelier which I forgot to dust before this holiday. Still it sparkles in the moonlight, like a constellation waiting to be named. I close my eyes and imagine the guest room directly above, where family sleeps in a big mahogany bed and above them the tall attic with dusty rafters where we have stored all of our childhood memories. But now I'm on the roof, and I'm not a bit surprised to see that the old dog has come with me. We watch as boats slip down the river, and neighbors' lights wink out, one by one. Tomorrow there will be guests in the house, but tonight it is just Orion and Canus Major knocking at the door. and I have grown so accustomed to this bed on the floor, that I will wait for someone else to rise and let them in.

Push Hands Aikido National Championships, Vandalia, Ohio In a room full of black belts and white gis I am looking for you, my son. The tall man hitting the mat, certainly looks like you as he tucks and rolls, but when he stands, adjusts his belt, I know I am mistaken. This is not your stance, your manner nor do your hands move so quickly. I am looking for your deliberate lightness-- as if you float inside your gi. Never mind that the room is crowded, noisy with the slap of hands and feet, this is where one learns to carry silence within, to bow, to bend, to meet the world as it meets you, to own this space, and to give it back again.

Cathryn Essinger is the author of five books of poetry--most recently The Apricot and the Moon and Wings, Or Does the Caterpillar Dream of Flight?, both released this year from Dos Madres Press. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The New England Review, The Antioch Review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. They have been nominated for Pushcarts and "Best of the Net," featured on The Writer's Almanac, and reprinted in American Life in Poetry.