Silde Rules

A Backyard Walk

One of Carl Sandburg’s shorter poems, called “Window,” goes like this: “Night from a railroad car window/ Is a great, dark, soft thing/ Broken across with slashes of light.”  Another one, I have to set out as written in two stanzas, for full effect.  It’s called “Fog”: 

The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

I began to read that one to my shiftless cat, to try it out in the air, but she is no more, having left on silent haunches, a vapor leaving no trace.

Before reading those little poems, I filled the bird feeders in our backyard, while three sparrows twittered nearby, waiting.  The feeders showed the marks of squirrels who had gnawed at the rings below them, their metal tops, even peeled paint from their sides, to no avail.  Finishing, I walked the fence at our property line, noting the place where the remains of our pets are buried, the piled pine straw and leaves springing to my steps.  

Once, I turned back to look at our home, dirt to sky, for a moment trying to see it as someone who did not live there, but I couldn’t.  We’ve been here too long, so it’s an extension of us, rooted and real, an appendage.  At one corner of the house, a breeze whistles by, a soft thing, silent, which then moves on, blowing by my face, cool.  I turn to see a black cat, lean and lanky, gallop through our gate, startled. It turns to look at me, then moves on. As do I.

She calls to me from the door. My traditionally-built cat, sister of the vapor, is worried about the strange man walking in the back yard, a slash of light to her cat-eyes, as she sits alert on little cat feet. I call to her, to reassure, thrice, and go in, before night settles, dark and soft, with fog on city feet.