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Garden Story and Owl

From The Kenyon Review, New Series, Winter 1987, Vol. IX, No. 1

Out of the still center of the big field near our house,
from the burned-out, tangled heap
of felled trees there—

the black mass you can glance at
sidewise, and still see flames, trapped heat still wavering up
after all this time—

I’ve found something. Something alive in both my hands
and what the big kids call
the devil lizard, horned lizard, toad.

I’m five. I talk to it the whole way home.
I wonder how it manages
to breathe,

the way it’s nailed to itself like that.
Big thorns stuck
through its head and neck and back, all over.

Every several seconds it signals
its distress,
with a needle of blood emitted

from an eye.
By the time I’m home, it’s late. It’s supper.
I ease the thing down on the lawn, saying here

is where you are and
Don’t Move.
When I come back out there’s a grisly

chill on the air and of course the thing is gone.
Just a little breeze
through the grass where it was.

Though by now it’s hard to see, I stand there,
peering out along
the edge of the fence, around and around the base

of a single, shattered lamp. This is a whole new yard.

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Cindy Nichols is a professor of creative writing. Her poems have been published widely.