We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner


White owl flies into and out of the field

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a buddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings—
five feet apart—and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow—

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows—
so I thought:
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us—

as soft as feathers—
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow—
that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.


Helping the morning

This morning shows up at my bedside
like a mother holding a glass of water,
so I say thank you, glancing out the window
at the tiny farmhouse flung into the lap
of emerald hills below, and feel the sweetness
sleep has brought, such sweetness I feel
I could pen a volume on the history of sugar,
and make readers love it. I am giddy
with the lack of war, of pain, amazed
at the silent terrible wonder of my health.
So I make a rosary of the room, I pray
the bedpost, the window panes. I put
our children on two doorknobs, our sick
friends on chair rungs. Like the aperture
of a camera, the morning opens and keeps on
opening till the room is filled with rosy
light and I could believe anything,
that my ancient mother may still get well
and thrive, that later when someone robs
the bank, all the tellers may survive.


Fig tree dominates the garden,
gray and knobby against gray fog,
its bare branches grotesque.
Like the old, bent parishioners
my father would visit, taking me
along, a child. They stroked
my hands, my woolen dress,
reached out with cloudy eyes.

This tree reaches everywhere,
as though light can be caught.
Slow sun drains through, stirs
a wing. Then one morning
I see them, green tips of figs
hard as emeralds escaping
from every knuckled grasp.


Winter and hesitation

The way from home
falls along the fields.
The hour’s leaving,

but still we wait and wait.
I’ve no more will
to shape the words.
See that line of trees—
a mile or two ago,

I thought to speak,
but let it drop.
Something left me

there, along the path—
some call and drift—
and now I cannot trace
what was. Light
in a window. Frozen

breath. The sound
such distance gives.
I dare not make a move.



Robert S. McNamara, the focus of The Fog of War, an Academy Award–nominated documentary directed by Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line), served as secretary of defense under the two presidents who took the U.S. into Vietnam—John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.