My mother,
wearing my father’s boots,
spread sunflower seed across the splintered board
perched on a fading arbor.

And chipping away at the blue-white ice
in the sooty birdbath,
planted bits of plaster in the snow.
Shooed away the squirrels
one way or another.

Chanting, “Chicka-dee-dee-dee-dee!”
The burden of her unfettered breast
beneath a zippered robe.
in man’s boots and nappy periwinkle.

Hummingbirds perched on our fingers.
My mother’s delight.
In her element among
the tropical greens and golds
and ruby-red-throats.
Confident amidst sharp iridescent wings slicing the fragile air.

Despite the heavy gray,
the ceaseless wet,
on the ship’s bow,
she giggles at Puffins
floating like tribes of witless toys.
I tell the jokes in this family.
And delight.

And equally,
stand amazed
when the Great Blue Heron takes flight
close enough to hear
the moment of lift off from ground to sky.

Now the yard is unremarkable.
The feeder hangs motionless.
The warblers are silent.
Even the lowly finches have vanished.
The cry of the Chickadee is far off.
Many miles away.
My mother’s laugh.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk taunts me now.
Three times he dazzles
with a show of his stripes.

In the high black trees,
vultures keep silent vigil.
A colony of shrouded lepers
on bare branches.

It is certain,
even a heart swelling with
forgiveness cannot stop
hollow bones from replacing the ripening breast.

Now, I wear the heavy boots.
Pour the thistle gently.
Watch the light being replaced by shadows
in my face.
Breast turning east and west under nappy scarlet.
Close enough to hear
the moment of lift off from ground to sky.


Cynthia Woodring is an undergraduate in Mary Baldwin University’s online degree program.  Originally from Long Island, she currently lives in Charlottesville, VA, and when she’s not writing, Cynthia is engaged in her passion:  teaching yoga.