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Author Biography
Poetry By
  Barbara Archer

Published on: 4/4/2006
After the Fall

Come winter, you've drawn in uponyourself.
Sitting across from me at the kitchen table
your shoulders hunched, your eyes hooded
against the new cold creeping though the cracks.

Just two months since
we held hands on the trail
up to the peak that promised
a view of four counties,
trying to stay abreast on
a path just wide enough for one.
We took it for a rock, the rough half-dome
in the middle of thetrail till, closer,
we saw it for what it was:
box turtle lying flat to the path.
"Is it dead?" I asked, somehow fearing
to know.

Wordless, you squatted to just touch the edge,
a gentle push meant to inspire the thing
to chance a look around. "Stubborn," you said,
determined to turn the creature over,
risking the beak for the sight of a craning neck
and waving limbs. We had to laugh,
though the red eyes' glare took me aback.
What were we doing, exposing the soft parts
of this beast that had to hide them to be safe?

"It's a boy," you said. "The red eyes tell you that."
We were still too new for me to have guessed
the depths of what you knew, and I wondered what else you
could tell me: which mushrooms are safe to eat,
how to tell a hemlock from a spruce.
I wondered, Could you rub two sticks together
and make fire? Save us from a bear?

Our own fire burned hot then.
In the kitchen now, with December blowing up a storm,
I pile more wood in the stove
and I look back to catch a last glimpse of your soft-bellied
self before you pull the shell down over it.

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