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Friday, February 05, 2016


by Amy Eisner

Cattle at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge wait out the fog of a cold, winter morning January 11, 2016. Image source: Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Her childhood cards said interested, alert, and eager to learn.
In her twenties she was an associative thinker and loved
to work numbers, fold them like origami in a spread
sheet. But she has no head for numbers, they slip through.
Her boyfriend said it was obnoxious to put him on a list
after laundry, and eventually he slipped through too.
In her thirties she had babies, became a thing of many:
mouths, wakings, -pieced toys. By her forties she is simply
scattered. "Get your [ship] together" reads the tote bag
in the store. (She has become a shopper, provisioning being
the only news she can solve.) This week she thinks often
of white men in the cold, in the bird refuge
they have claimed as their own. If they stay long enough
will we come look at them through binoculars, mark them
by the particular scruff on their duck canvas chests?
On so much land the fog must roll in layers: blue, sooty,
breathy, tinged with sun, filling secret baskets in secret
Paiute graves, filling the bunchgrass and the people squatting
in it--new arrivals with binoculars in their mitts watching
us watch the tribe watch the birders watch the ranchers
(oh, the ranger and the cowman should be friends)
and the vision of what you can own in a glance
multiplies to a power, like Galileo's scope, devised
to make a man on a ship fifty miles away appear five.
You can see the ship, you can see the man,
but what can you own but what you admit?

Amy Eisner teaches writing at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her poems have appeared in Confrontation, Fence, Valparaiso, and other journals.