Thomas Caraway

Imagine yourself as a forest
only each tree is a bird
and each bird is called Gladys.

Mergansers, teals, cormorants,
eagles, peregrines, penguins, pelicans—
all Gladys. But Gladys,
                                  that is, the birds

are really trees, remember. Doug fir,
blue spruce, tamarack, sugar maple,
bull pine, lodgepole, black oak—
                                              still Gladys.
            And every needle or leaf
is a version of you—
a cackling forest of Gladys-birds,
and the you that is possibly you
wandering the forest.

One version of you drives all night,
Billings to Fargo, with a load of rebar
on a flatbed—another works the late shift
and dreams of the shining river.

Remember those dreams.
They are still you—the you looking
in the mirror, wondering why your father
stares back at you—you the young beauty
pinching the skin of her wrist, then smoothing
the wrinkles back out—the you who knew
how to fly, the you who made movies as a child.
The you racing the trail, small branches cutting at your legs,
the you who keeps us safe, the you who has died.

The you who wakes in darkness,
blurry and cold—the you watching this child,
thinking, “Yes, little darling, little Gladys,
the girl in that picture was me
and this is me, and I am this picture,
and all these birds, as well.”

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