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ROWER AMONG TREES /Julia Wendell Taking out the garbage again, I came upon a barn owl resting on a boxwood, sizing me up as if I, not he, were the intruder, emerging from my house into a chiUed gray Ught, tiito the long, slow first movement of a daybreak of rain. The cardinal knew, the cardinal and the jay and the crow that this was not my home. And I thought— he should have been sleeping in the hull of his tree by now, shouldn't he? He sat unmoved as I rattled down the drive, my tin third leg dragging behind, and was there when I returned, hinged Uds bUnking at me, whUe I bUnked back. I smacked my dirty hands together, wiped them on my dirty jeans, tuning up for my mistake, "How-dee-dow, Mr. Owl," I caUed out as he spread and tifted, turning up the yeUow & red & brown leaves of maples & pin oaks as he passed, as if they were oars Ufting for the next stroke, and he a tireless rower among trees. The Missouri Review · 47 LEARNING TO BREATHE / Julia Wendell l. After the argument, after he goes outside with a shovel, levels the Monet garden, levels the peach tree he's taken years to grow, cracks the orchid bench he buUt last year, after he's done a fair amount of shouting to the cornfield across the way, untU he no longer has the breath for it, comes inside, then goes back out again because he is afraid, afraid to be too near my accusations— after the chUdren run out wUd-eyed, and I take them in my arms again, teUing them that we'll work it out again, though each new time, I never know if now is the moment that wUl break everything, aU sirens & red Ughts & gurneys & no going back, the way my uncle, suddenly dead at 62, looked Ui his coffin so perfectly resolved to my mother's final comment: "He dreaded growing old, and now he never wiU___ " After aU this, I go in, sometime deep in the late-night reprieve, 2. I go into my son's room to watch him sleep. No cracks showing, so effortless each breath, and I want only this, for him to take the next one and the next, worrying that he'U always need a Uttle prompting. When he was born, 48 · The Missouri Review he was born "sleepy," swirling along with me in my Demerol dream. He didn't almost die, and yet red tights flashing, white cloaks summoned huddled round the bassinet so I wouldn't see the needle being stabbed into his heart, forcing him to breathe. I can't take back the words I've said, things he's seen, breaths taken, and to be honest, I wouldn't even want to. So when I note the frayed stuffed lop-ear he's held tight for his 10 years, now propped above his sleeping head, stiU wide-awake, like me, keeping sentry in the moontight, when I see him there Uke that, I smeU perfume, and a woman's body, soft arms, soft Ups and a breast that will one day cushion his ascending and descending breaths. And then I turn and leave the room. Julia Wendell The Missouri Review · 49 38 / Julia Wendell When I think of god, I think of you drawing my head into your lap, knowing I would do most anything for the blessing of your fingers moving in my hair, coaxing me farther & farther into you. And I think of clusters of tart grapes bending their vines, the forest-green nocturne and decrescendo of the leaves, the constant, invisible ticking of the crickets—summer's lullaby. End of August, and my calendar turns on its back. On my birthdays, even as a child I felt a thickness in the throat when the hydrangeas were fuUest, when the horses, taUs swishing, waited at the barn door in good faith, wanting out of the heat, when everything was a Uttle dusty, a Uttle fuU, a cup brimming with the first taste of passing. Now, as I walk out to our abundant garden breaking through the webs that thread...


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