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AWAKE / David Bottoms for Barry Hannah A winter so hard you think the shrubs may never rouse, the redtips stunned in their brown coma, the boxwoods flaking like pillows of rust. Then one day, weeks late, the first bud winks on the China tree, and the maple sapling, leafless, sends a green tentative feeler into the yard. Underground something is stirring, climbing through the veins. That night the shadows leave a warmth in the air, a promising stillness, so you take your rod and tackle box, you walk the quarter mile of thickening woods, stand in the weedy mire bordering the shallows, ease your fly onto the surface. And you see in what light the stars give the lake a wavy V zagging the water, a spade head running the brush shadows, vanishing, and the water smoothing to a plate of black glass. The wind blows the honeysuckle out of the pines, and the surface ripples easy with the drift of twigs and feathers. The old needles alert the new leaves, the fly jitters under a bush. A gray breath of fog yawns out of the cove and the tail washes up on your boot. The Missouri Review · 227 THE OFFERING / David Bottoms Into the scrap pine I jerked the saw blade, guessing dimensions, leaving the edges rough. And the boards I cut, I tacked into a crude feeder, two simple shelves like open hands. I took my ladder to the corner of the yard where a willow hangs over the pond, and poured into the feeder the mixed seeds of five grasses, hung those shelves in the top of that tree. Days passed before my birds trusted enough to come. Then together came the blackbirds and the sparrows. And for hours on my porch I gave myself to the catbirds, the mockingbirds who held in their throats the voices of all the neighborhood beasts, known and unknown. But eventually not even their songs were enough, where was the voice they couldn't mimic? Now at night I wait on my porch, anxious with my tiny guilt. And I rock back in my chair, watch with my night glasses the dark jaw of the pinetops, the trees on the edge of the pond, the willow trembling under the feeder where the dead mouse lies in the starlight, small as a thumb, white as a soul. 228 · The Missouri Review ...


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