By Anne Cowie
July 15, 2023
July 15, 2023
So we beat on, boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly
into the past.
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald
The sandhill cranes
pass through Nebraska in the spring
and Wisconsin in the fall.
They feast on corn in farmers’ fields
during the day, roost
in marshes at night.
Cackling their prehistoric calls,
they crash land into the sunset.
Scientists say they are moved
by the changing of the light,
the shortening and lengthening of days—
or maybe some magnetic field in their heads
that guides them up the rivers,
through snow squalls,
Our German ancestors took the slow ship across the ocean.
They loaded up their lives in steamer trunks—
books, linens, the scowling bust of Beethoven—
stood at the coaming by the frothy waves,
then headed up the river
on a steamboat to St. Paul.
My great-grandmother played with her dolls,
watched sun-struck eagles soar
above the hills.
my daughter guides her daughters
through the cobbled streets, past stucco walls.
They chatter nursery songs
in rhymes I cannot understand, lost
What ancient light
has drawn her in reverse?
Lindens shed their golden leaves
before the day turns dark.
Inside, we kneel to play with wooden blocks.
Above us hangs my mother's portrait as a child,
beneath her dark blue velvet dress.
I have brought that dress, smooth
its folds, pin
the fraying lace along its sleeves.
It's yours now.
In my dream,
the wedding is about to start.
I count out pearls, drape
them around her neck.
We stand before the mirror,
its silvered glass
Anne Cowie lives in Minneapolis.