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July 27, 2011

by Ann Neuser Lederer

Pool closed, says the sign
on the door leading out.

A black canvas flaps
between the indoor (permitted)
and outdoor (forbidden) waters.
Although it is now officially safe
to plant tomatoes, the season
has not really started.

Sunshine, lounging on the canvas,
warms the water directly beneath it.
Even with my eyes closed, I know
I am passing the enticing opening.
I want to sneak under, then out,
but fear a lifetime banished by the Y.
All through my long laps, I swim
like a seal pup, in luscious, sunlit circles.

I am the yellow canary in the dining room,
peeking wistfully out the clear kitchen window
at the finches flitting on the thistle feeder.
I continue to trill, a teakettle’s whistle,
although I imagine cutting my bars with my sharp beak,
then nipping through the window glass, to hop
from top to bottom rung of the feeder, then up again.

I am the young prisoner, really just a boy, allowed
in the yard for the first time in six long months.
Cautiously, I pull a wild onion,
brush off the dirt, and chew.

Flitting from bar to bar,
I gnaw the green stalk, still warm from growing,
then, suddenly, dive under the flapping canvas,
escape from the cool cavern of the pool’s vault,
into the sun warmed sparkle.

The birds nesting in the rafters flee behind me,
holding their breaths for the first time,
plunging under the water, humming like dolphins.
One flips onto its back briefly, and spouts bubbles.

A whole lawn of wild onion tips
waves its feathers hello.
Dripping, we all climb out, and begin to feed,
caring little about the onion smell on our breaths,
the green remnants stuck
in our teeth, our beaks, our gills.

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Ann Neuser Lederer (website) was born in Ohio and has lived and worked in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Kentucky. Her nonfiction and poetry appear in journals such as Brevity, Diagram, Hospital Drive, and Cross Connect; anthologies such as The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel, The Country Doctor Revisited: A Twenty-First Century Reader, and Best of the Net 2007; and three chapbooks: Approaching Freeze, The Undifferentiated, and Weaning the Babies. She is employed as a nurse in Kentucky.

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