We’re Golden

by Alexandra Burroughs

Your father, ornithologist, binoculars in hand,
monitors their coming and going.
Mergansers, wood ducks, herons,
Canada geese rise up flapping
into the leaden November air.
Their lines roil, vee into vee.
Migration impels them south.

Gray sky outspread across the horizon,
meets straw-dry cattails stretched
as far as the eye can see.
Snug, wind-protected, golden as the flag
we labor, you and I, my belly rounding.
We sort out broad, juicy male flag
from hard-cored female brown-tufted cattails
anchored in fertile black muck.

“Ol-ka-leee,” a glossy ebony chorus,
our red-winged blackbird neighbors,
sings the warmth of community:
Roots, rhizomes and detritus
carpet our windbreak.
We’re content in this shelter.

As we toil, back bent,
a crescent blade, long-handled,
moves to our direction.
Thirty-inch lengths of cattail flag
pile into bundles,
wait to ride the singing rails
to caulk the stays on charred barrels,
to turn corn into caramel bourbon,
dancing gold in candlelit crystal.

You run sunny at my side,
to the swings, to your tricycle,
to your fire engine,
to climb trees.
Strawberry blonde, Eric the Red,
we named you.

Grown tall, now husband and father,
you fly across oceans sail-driven
and glide, wing-ed, hawk-like, on warm updrafts
above the verdant fields of Sacramento
and rocky cliffs
of our distant Pacific shores.

Son of our flesh,
Spirit of our spirit,
Wind of our lives.

Alexandra Burroughs lives in Transylvania County. She is a member of the Wordsmiths critique group and the Transylvania Writers’ Alliance. Bedtime Story and Other Poems was published in 2004. Her poems have also appeared in Lucidity Poetry Journal, The Cove Rincon, Out of Our Hearts and Minds and Clothes Lines.

About We’re Golden–“We’re Golden” is inspired by my experience working in the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge area cutting cattail “flag” while I was pregnant with my son Eric. The juice in the thick male leaves gives a particular flavor to bourbon when it is used by distilleries to caulk the stays of the barrels. I delivered bundles of the flag to a local middleman who shipped them out on the railroad. It was exhilarating not only to observe nature with my ornithologist husband but to also make some money while spending hours hidden in the “golden flag,” under an expansive gray sky, supported by fecund black muck while I was pregnant. The richness of life in the marsh seemed to be an appropriate metaphor for my sense of power in that physical condition.