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Molly Fisk: Devotion

And then in November we are somehow
still swimming, the lake lower than ever, 
the water so cold it's like walking straight
into a martini, says one of us, though 
I've never drunk a drop of this famous 
concoction and now I'm sober probably 
will never know how cold that really is.
The mergansers fly so close to the surface
their feet could touch it, banking up 
from gray waves to paler sky, monochrome
except for someone's pink bathing cap,
their wings flapping hard to keep those fat
torsos aloft, the physics of ducks
a thing my grandmother taught me
long ago, her binoculars trained on some 
accipiter high in a pine on the Cape,
also November, but she saw a flock of eider
lift off the Atlantic from the corner of her eye
and thought to mention it, the ratio of wing-
beats to body weight, maybe one of her regular 
allusions to my childhood girth, but maybe 
just a scientist's aside, the way she also
instructed me to work from the back claw
toward the front while disentangling a jay's
foot from the net: do the toes first because
that's where they grab and make it worse,
then the ends of the wings or the shoulders,
whichever seems easiest, all this while
holding the bird's head between your index
and middle fingers because no one's strong
enough to accidentally crush a neck
with those and it allows the wings to open
without danger of breaking. She taught me
laundry and cooking, too, and how to
thwart authority after being made to sit 
two extra hours at the dinner table facing
a bowl of stewed tomatoes I hated until 
she walked out to the dock and I quickly 
slipped them under the pine duff beside 
her back door. That was summer though,
and Canada, my grandfather still alive
(speaking of martinis) and not interfering 
but rattling his paper on the screen porch 
so we knew he was there and letting me 
paddle the Old Town while he fished the next 
morning, after I'd secured a worm on the hook, 
mist rising off that other lake at dawn, yes, 
quite cold, but we were jacketed and zipped up, 
drinking hot tea from thermoses, and whether 
it was his way of placating a smart kid's fury 
at being bossed or he actually liked me, 
no one will ever know.

Molly Fisk’s many books include The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, 2010).

Copyright 2021 Molly Fisk

5 comments on “Molly Fisk: Devotion

  1. thomasgoff
    November 1, 2021

    Fine poem. The observation of birds blends almost imperceptibly into the observations of family, making the poet ornithologist and humanist. Love the detail of slipping the stewed tomatoes under the pine duff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    November 1, 2021

    A wonderful poem with a terrific ending. Enjoyed this tremendously.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Huntington
    November 1, 2021

    Love Molly Fisk’s poetry

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Poetry and tagged , , .

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