Cathryn Essinger

Another Stilled Thing....

Tangled in the roots of the sycamore tree,

a goose egg, cold, spattered with mud,


I wash it in the creek, decide to carry

it home for the neighbor boy

who loves stilled things--

fossils, locust husks, and sea shells,

anything that might have been,

but now is not.

But how differently I walk now

with a cold egg in one hand.

No sliding over

hollow logs, no clumsy tumble down

the creek bank, before the dog and I

wade to the other side.

We honor its fragility, as if it might be

reawakened. It is, after all, still an egg,

once warm, some bird's

blueprint for the future now lodged

in my hand, and if someone

has to give

the universe a kick to get things started,

why not us? Why not now?

Or is this grand silence,

this question that no one cares to answer

nothing more than the egg

that does not hatch?

Something always happens…

...or it does not.

Sometimes the something

waits until it happens

and then you are suspended

in the waiting, knowing

that it is coming, but not coming,

but not forever, because

something always happens.

Even when you are unaware,

it has always been coming

toward you, whether

you were waiting

for it or not waiting.

And even after it has come

sometimes you do not

know that it has arrived,

sneaking in the way

things do, disguised as

something else—a trip

to the market, a long

line at the grocery,

all part of the waiting,

part of the something

that arrives whether

you are aware of it or not--

the clerk, scanning

the bread and the milk,

and then not scanning them,

because the power has flickered

and then failed, and the clerk,

anxious to clear the aisle,

picks up a calculator and starts

punching in numbers,

while customers help

by moving their own items

along the belt, until it is time

to open the cash drawer,

which, of course, will not open,

so the clerk makes change

out of his own pocket,

stuffs the money into

a tissue box, and hands

you almost the correct change,

and you don’t care, because

you think that this is it,

the something that has arrived,

but of course, it is not,

it is still part of the waiting,

everything is part of the waiting.

The something was the baby

asleep on his mother’s shoulder

while she pulled grapes

and tangelos from her cart,

his head lolling with each dip

of her shoulder, marking time

in sleep, the way babies do,

but by then you had moved on

to helping her lift the detergent

from the bottom of the cart

to the conveyer belt

which suddenly jerks

into motion and everything

moves forward again,

and the baby wakes,

and smiles, because

the mother is still holding

him and in his world

nothing has changed,

although of course, it has.

Cathryn Essinger is the author of three books of poetry--A Desk in the Elephant House, from Texas Tech University Press, My Dog Does Not Read Plato, and What I Know About Innocence, from Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared most recently in The Southern Review, The Antioch Review, and The Alaska Quarterly, among others.