One of the First Days


Can you know, when you’re not even
a bud, but poised at some brink?

− Mark Doty, ‘Verge’

Can they tell? The cook and the girl who takes
our drink order? As we sit on the nearly deserted
patio under an umbrella where no one

with any sense would sit, waiting for the end
of the silver drizzle that was not predicted,
we sip our beers, uncertain of what to say.

It’s cold and we are new to this, pulling from
inside our warm throats barely enough words
to keep fueling the exchange. I’m wondering

whether you are as miserable as you look,
the waterfall splashing over the rock face
in the distance, just above your shoulder.

You propose a hike, something I usually
enjoy, but today I am dressed all wrong
and I know the trails will be muddy.

Neither of us can tell where this will lead
even as we set off, hoods up against the rain,
trudging almost dutifully, sticking with

the plan, despite the change in the sky,
all that gray. We follow the creek, its rush
winding through woods until we get in deep.

In the silence, ease comes. A synchronized pace.
Can anyone see in the damp of our skin
its shine? What is just starting to become true?

As we walk in a rhythm, ignoring now the wet,
there is a quick sound. We hear it at the same
time, stop in our tracks, still, almost touching.

A single bird song pierces from somewhere
through the rain. Invisible. Sharp. Strong.
We can’t identify the call. Not yet. But

years from now, we will remember
that sound, the way we both studied
the trees, searching eagerly for its source.

Joanne Esser writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has also been a teacher of young children for over thirty years. She earned an MFA from Hamline University and published a chapbook of poems, ‘I Have Always Wanted Lightning,’ with Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her work appears in many journals.

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