The only time I see him
This man is bigger than the bakery.
He spills with joy
like the bags of frosting on every counter,
his arm hair, muscles and laugh
too much to be contained
by his apron.
He makes my coffee, bags my loaf
of ciabatta, tucks that little slipper
into brown paper as if he’s dressing
a sleeping baby,
hands me our bread child,
leans forward, asks if I’ve tasted
his eclairs, which I haven’t.
Holds one over the glass case
of sugar, take a bite, he says
with the pastry at the gate of my lips,
you’ll never be the same.
It’s easy to focus so much on the air
that you forget about the earth,
dust to dust,
so enchanted with the gold-
finches and song sparrows
taking black seeds into their beaks,
leaving the husks behind
like silver confetti.
Somewhere, behind our eyes,
we know it is only a matter of time
before the lumbering lump
stretches out of her slumber
and follows her nose to the oily
sunflower we hung, the greasy suet,
one swipe of bear arm takes down the feeder,
bear haunches completely fill
the stairs while she dines, nothing can pass.
Is this how death comes?
A shining mix of strength and softness,
paw and claw? Fur you want to sink
into, even while you fear it? Can’t you
see yourself climbing onto her back, grasping
tufts of neck in your fingers and savoring
this very new thing even as it carries you
into the darkest part of the woods,
shining nose tilted to the air?
Heather Stearns is a potter, bird lover, and writer based in the northern woods of Wolcott, Vermont. She is the author of three chapbooks: Virtue, Vise, and Cicadas. Her new work is forthcoming in Thimble Literary Magazine. She spends her days making pots, spinning poems in her head, and teaching others how to move the earth at her community pottery studio, Muddy Creek Pottery.