August Installment
Mary Fister

August Installment

Young cardinals clamored
at the feeder, fretting

the end of lessons. All summer,
parents had fed and pushed them

to trial flights in the underbrush.
The dun-crested female

was the shade of patience,
the male’s high color

was urgency of work—
both shared the scurry

of readying their fledglings.
My two-year-old watched them still

their young’s shivering wings with seed.
With nightfall, coyotes stole

off the ridge. Their yipping
swallowed the glimmer

of newly risen stars,
pierced the stillness.

They slipped through an open-mesh
fence. Which sheep did they fell?

The one spurned from its mother
at birth? Or the one

with no such notable story?
I turned away from the field.

The half-eaten sheep lay
like a tarnished bell,

tongue struck dumb. Her eyes
bleared with the fever of dying.

My two-year-old could not
temper her desire to visit

the flock who would throng to her,
nudge her, hold soft muzzles

under her hand. She had waited
all summer to unclasp this latch

for their trotting-up greeting.
When I turned her away,

she broke down too easily.
I couldn’t explain why

we could not pass.
And I wondered how long

I could keep her from knowing,
as the cardinals’ sheltering wings

pulled in, pushed their young
to that first stutter of flight.

Mary Fister

teaches at the University of Hartford. Her poems have appeared in Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Tar River Poetry, and Volt, among other journals. Her chapbook, Provenance of the Lost, was published by Finishing Line Press. She lives on a farm in Florence, Massachusetts.