How Quickly the Light Changes | Before You Set Your Table

How Quickly the Light Changes

The moment we step
into morning dusk,
co-mingled muskiness
lingering on our skin,
it all slides slips shifts
to Aurora’s bright dawn.

A near-full moon dips below
the western edge. As we walk
steam-engine puffs of breath
mark our way.

This cold late-winter morning,
so temporary in its grasp,
mirrors other beginnings,
other openings to holiness.

Sharp air on my tongue.
I want to kneel as I receive it,
whisper thanks for this breath
and the next and the next.

I grasp your gloved hand
as proof we are in this together.

Before You Set Your Table

The small oranges on the counter are wrinkled.
You cut one into eighths, toss it outside
beneath the bird feeder.
You wait, but no one comes.

It has been below zero all week.
You read about chickadees,
how they run hot, stay warm, masters of survival.
They are why you offered black oil sunflower seeds
in the feeder yesterday when it was ten below.

You believe the chickadees know you.
Sometimes you think the crows do, too.
They ate all the leftover stuffing one morning
when you scattered it around the back yard.

The oranges are for the cardinals.
You heard them earlier, recognized that whistle they have
when it’s time to start this year’s family.
They’ll need whatever sustenance you can offer.

When you look out the window again,
a few orange pieces are gone.
You wonder if the squirrels got there first.
It doesn’t matter. You’re here
to fill any empty stomach,
hear the hunger beneath every song.

About Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson’s work has appeared in publications in the US, UK, and Canada. She co-founded the contemporary poetry journal Gyroscope Review, where she served as co-editor until 2020. Her poetry chapbook, How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths, will be released from Gyroscope Press in Spring 2021. She lives in Roseville, Minnesota, with her husband, James Mickelson, and one very old dachshund named Truffles. Find out more at her website, oneminnesotawriter.com.

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