Three Things

by Stephanie Thomas Berry

The otters have it right.
There are only three things worth doing
hunt, play, groom
and all these things are made finer
by water, wild and river sweet or
salty and swaying with kelp.
But who has the luck of the otter
or any wild animal, for that matter:
a life as clear as the fine edge
of your hunger
for mouse or grass or abalone?
I'd surely trade for a life even less lucky than the otter's
think of the smoldering buffalo
wandering the great and open palm of the prairie
with grass milk and sky
the boom and bellow of your voice
steams the dry air and marks
the emptiness that surrounds you.
Or the wolf that lopes through the long shadows
trailing the musky ribbons of elk scent
hunger the force that moves him
hunger the song he holds in his throat
you know that song, how it makes you
leap out of yourself, wishing for wolfness.
Or even think of the snake
sleeping long and coiled through the winter
called into quickness by the red glow of summer,
moving across the earth, a ripple of flesh and muscle.
You take the warm mouse in your mouth
and swallow it whole.
Later you'll wedge yourself between rough bark and stone
and give birth to a new snake-self
one that gleams afresh in the light.

Even that would be better than all this guessing.

Stephanie Thomas Berry is an artist and writer living in the Toe River Valley of Western North Carolina. In the studio, she works most often in pastels, but she also enjoys making detailed drawings with Micron pens. Her art celebrates the heart connection we all have with Nature.

About Three Things—Sometimes a poem hits you at the most unlikely of times, like when you are driving your kids to piano lessons. The first draft of this poem was written on the back of my daughter's practice sheet. We had recently completed a road trip to Montana, and the images of our journey were stewing in my creative consciousness.