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The Silver Forest

by Mary Lambert
A stain lay across her right breast, moving as she breathed,
darkening rhythmically where a nipple moved against flannel
washed beyond endurance.

Stone fingers lay on muslin, shiny from assiduous washings.

Ice stings the window, working the geometry of Spanish fans.

Her pain grimaces. Small hairs move. A blue vein throbs
across her temple, running its river to her center.

Yellowed floorboards reflect a dim fire burning in a grate,
the room's only light.

Beyond the window, land slopes under a fence toward a
silver forest. Stately fronds slope in measured unison
until a hill interferes. A scrim of snow surrounds the forest.

A fox sits at the scrim, tail wrapped close, appearing at-one
with the thicket where she huddles. Snow gathers at her edges.
Eyes gleam. She waits.

Inside, the woman turns her face to the window. Waxen lids
show the fire's dance. One strand of hair trails the case,
soiled by long convalescence.

A dream comes. She divides herself from herself. Pushing
through the window, she mingles with the dervish, coalescing,
expanding, turning on tiers, then scurrying at random, close
to the ground.

As she nears the scrim, her gnarled past shows itself. She
shivers with remembrance and the pain of true sight.

Three dead babies, two boys and a tiny girl float by; and
there is Ethan, her one true vice.

That arid desert in mid-life, dry as mummy's dust.
Dunes created by a parched spirit.

Water came. Ethan. All that life! And death.

Spirit firmed after that. Tough. Alive. Better for
that transgression. Not really a sin after all! A
necessary medicine.

Another baby then. This one a soul mate. No one
ever guessed.

That child grown and traveling the world. More than
one kind of death. But--no--a wellspring within.

Found in midwinter gazing at a cardinal atop a
silver pine.

And the fox! Red too, balancing the cardinal--
two rubies they were. Releasing the wellspring at
her center; reflecting her joy and aliveness.

They knew! And she knew they knew! Those lovely
streaks of color enriching a pristine world.

Now gone too--but yet, not gone. Their vital gift an
eternal connection at her center.

Something on her right. Again. Only snow blowing
off a drift. And then, a quickening of red, shaking
loose ice and snow. The fox.

Her center glowed. They drank their sameness.
And as one became the other, moved through the scrim
and into the silver forest.

Inside, rituals. Family. Doctor. And the flower of
her desert, the child come from afar.

The room is bright from the whiteness outside. The
child looks, eyes tearing. She sees a single cardinal
atop a silver pine.

Her center quickens.

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Copyright © 1996 by Mary Lambert. All rights reserved.