Stone Telling

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With Bats in Our Belfry, Dear, Earth Water and Sky

by Neile Graham

Our kitchen proved an obstacle to the spawning salmon.
Back and forth at its doorway they bobbed
nosing the threshold.

The sparrows slipped in through the vents roosting high
with an eye to the cats. The cats certainly
had an eye for them.

What we thought was a cat curled on the couch was a raccoon,
solid, round, claiming his place. Was a fox,
crouched and wary.

Was a cloud darting up to settle along the ceiling, pulling wind,
pissing rain. A multiplicity of birds spun
through it to

weave amongst the cedars that stretched to line the rooms, books perched
on their limbs. The spruce. The dogwoods.
Hemlock. Fir.

We had to push through salal and brush maple to reach our bed.
The tub dammed by beavers. Squirrels
in the cupboards.

Moles in the drawers. Deer disappearing into the edges of walls,
a closet full of blinking bears. We finally
carried them,

the salmon, eager and thrashing across the floor, loosing them
into the hall to be on their way.
But they circled

the stream, returning, leaping, one by one, journeying back here.
This was how our autumn abounded.
That was the living

we'd made. How we thrived, how rich the very breath of our house,
how we tended our wilderness, how snug
our winter will be.

Neile Graham lives and works in the Pacific Northwest where there's wind and rain and ocean and trees. She frequently mistakes her cats for wild animals, and her home has been invaded by true wildlife more than once. New poems are forthcoming in Mythic Delirium and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. She has three collections of poetry published in her native Canada, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken-word CD of selected poems, She Says.

Read Neile's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!