Two Poems by Leigh Anne Couch

black and white photo of a river running through a dense forest

If the Eye Were an Animal

I said as I ran, you are a beautiful boy;
green words dipped and swerved like finches;
he ran alongside me the length of his pasture,
his hoofbeats circling my ribcage, unsettling the doves.
I said, tired boy, to the sleek calf’s back
hidden in the high grass, and there a crow
unfolded to climb the sky. From the wings,
words fell around me, blaze, blaze, blaze.
I play the twin birches like a musical instrument:
missing is to lost as go is to leave.
To the spider bags or sacs of flies
woven like god’s eyes in the trees’ hips
I say, batting, batting, the quintessence
of spring. If the eye were an animal, sight would be its soul.

If the heart were a pond, woe to thirsty birds
in winter with nowhere to light
in the ice-sharpened woods and nothing to drink
from this frozen body, this frozen body that would
crack and spill open at a meager touch of sun:
this mirror of dead-seeming trees, distill.
Will fifty years be my alembic?
Circles get larger, multiply and intersect,
on the spring-fed pond. The eye is an animal
and leaves shimmy shimmy just before
the downpour. Is it possible to be loved
around loneliness? The cup inward flowing,
the pond can’t resist the sluice, belly and stream;
errare and eros at once: a pond

meant to be a waterfall. The soul is water
in all its forms. You carry your daughter’s grave
wherever you go. The comforter so rarely is comforted.
Say the word shed aloud and see it
change color in the air, as blood, skin, light.
The rain ends, the sky grows fat with sun,
the sluice is full, and the pond wouldn’t
think of running off. What follows is day
after imperturbable day of lavender composure.
What follows is the Gaelic word for lonely, grave-still,
and still . . . can you see, my animal,
where I am going with this? If the heart
were a body of water and mine more pond
than river or sea, love would be the levee.



How to Be a Wolf 

I was at heel to a master
who wouldn’t show his face,
a sprung arrow through city streets,
apartments, cafes, and whole countries,
but no target in sight.

I danced and sang at the jangle
of the leash. Every outing, an opening
of my heart. But the master was implacable,
and I tired of the collar and chain,
miles and miles of blind desire.

He’d kick me awake in the morning
and off we’d go to ransack another day
another night in search of the golden mean,
the ark of the covenant, the meant-to-be-
because-it-is love.

After twelve years of being lead
onto highways in bad parts of town,
through high grass swimming
with snakes, something stirred
in me, not dog or master,

not bow or arrow, gun or bullet.
I was old with a wolfish gleam,
I was girl humming with the radio.
I bared my teeth to my shackles, but before
they met bone the chains dissolved.

Was it years then or a day before we took vows
to be wild things in a wild place of our own making?

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