Gary McDowell is the author of a forthcoming collection of lyric essays, Caesura (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017), and five collections of poetry, including Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Nation, The Southern Review, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner. He lives in Nashville, where he’s an assistant professor of English at Belmont University.
From the air, irrigation canals look like hands
with their fingers spread wide, stretching to palm
their fields—and also like an artery, its vascular
malformations ridged and lodged into place:
any breathing up here is done with a river’s patience.
This fall a coyote, brown-backed, silver-haunched,
crossed the broken cornfield behind the highway.
The way light frames it, ghosts it bare, the color ash,
the flint-points of its teeth, and the boys that chase it
from the playground: they pretend to be airplanes,
engine-breaking, barking at the coyotes, and on my deck
I open the gas grill to a flutter of bluebirds,
their nesting hay trailing behind their unforked tails
as they slope back to the woods, their unborn chicks unsure
how to survive the girth of the night and will know,
come morning, cold by the coming of cold.