Cathryn Essinger

Another Stilled Thing.... Tangled in the roots of the sycamore tree,a goose egg, cold, spattered with mud,abandoned. I wash it in the creek, decide to carryit home for the neighbor boywho loves stilled things-- fossils, locust husks, and sea shells,anything that might have been,but now is not. But how differently I walk nowwith a cold egg in one hand. No sliding over hollow logs, no clumsy tumble downthe creek bank, before the dog and Iwade to the other side. We honor its fragility, as if it might bereawakened. It is, after all, still an egg,once warm, some bird's blueprint for the future now lodgedin my hand, and if someonehas 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 answernothing more than the eggthat does not hatch? Something always happens… ...or it does not.Sometimes the somethingwaits until it happensand then you are suspendedin the waiting, knowingthat it is coming, but not coming,but not forever, becausesomething always happens.Even when you are unaware,it has always been comingtoward you, whetheryou were waitingfor it or not waiting. And even after it has comesometimes you do notknow that it has arrived,sneaking in the waythings do, disguised assomething else—a tripto the market, a longline at the grocery,all part of the waiting,part of the somethingthat arrives whetheryou are aware of it or not--the clerk, scanningthe bread and the milk,and then not scanning them,because the power has flickeredand then failed, and the clerk,anxious to clear the aisle,picks up a calculator and starts punching in numbers,while customers helpby moving their own itemsalong the belt, until it is timeto open the cash drawer,which, of course, will not open,so the clerk makes changeout of his own pocket,stuffs the money intoa tissue box, and handsyou almost the correct change,and you don’t care, becauseyou 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 babyasleep on his mother’s shoulderwhile she pulled grapesand tangelos from her cart,his head lolling with each dipof her shoulder, marking timein sleep, the way babies do,but by then you had moved onto helping her lift the detergentfrom the bottom of the cartto the conveyer beltwhich suddenly jerksinto motion and everythingmoves forward again,and the baby wakes,and smiles, becausethe mother is still holdinghim and in his worldnothing 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.