ADAM DICKINSON


SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM

As though a way of knowing,
a killdeer comes down
upon the willow.

His plumage is out of the sky,
is an autonomic landing,
an unerring touch.

The willow is a head of long, wet hair
lifted straight from a basin,
each leaf a parallel stream.

When I think of my hands in your hair,
it is the involuntary smell of rain
on the husks of winter-scorched grass,

that moment in late spring
where the humidity makes the seeding poplars
into a procession of orthodox priests

waving their open lanterns of smoking clove.
What do you know?  They ask.
What do you know about what you will do?

The killdeer knows that the mudflats are dry.
When it rains, the earthworms emerge;
their folds are the curves of a cerebellum

coming out of the water-tangled ground,
a head lifted far under the dirt,
standing in sympathy with flight.

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