Matthew Burns

When a cow gives birth,

they call it calving, too.

It happens most often

in the morning: sunrise, later.

Black cows dropping smaller

cows, wet, slippery.

The sun, unraveling,

warms both. The sun,

breaking over the mountains.

Sunrise doesn’t reach

the waterline until late.

It only dusts the topmost

points of the ice.

The mountains in the east

keep us in shade.

Blue shade, blue ice cut-

through with a different blue.

They call it calving

when the ice breaks free, falls.

Sea the color of mountains

rolls in against the outflow.

Both wash the black shore

clean, smooth as birth.

Matthew Burns

And here, friends, is what I believe

to be pure faith: the red squirrel,

small and nimble in the cold,

back arched and holding her fat

belly out of the snow as she

makes her way back to the leaf-ball

nest high in the bare white oak

now gone back to white again.

I believe in the flat mat of clouds

that holds everything together

and presses down on the garbage bins

I have taken out to the curb,

and on the pregnant squirrel,

her swollen teats, the warm pups

in her full belly that may not

make it past their first hard week.

I do not want children and I have

only recently come to want a dog,

but in this air, in the pink wrap

of rose and snow, I think I may be

able to do something that requires

more than I believe I have in me.

Matthew Burns is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Heritage University in Washington. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Binghamton University where he was co-editor of Harpur Palate. He was the winner of the 2010 James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review and his poems and essays have appeared in Folk Art, Ragazine, Cold Mountain Review, The Georgetown Review, Paddlefish, Upstreet, Spoon River Poetry Review, Jelly Bucket, Memoir (and), Paterson Literary Review, and others.

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