ON TEACHING MY TODDLER NEW WORDS
Battle Creek Canyon, Utah
Deer I whisper into the ear bouncing
before my chin, carrier straps strangling shoulders
and stride. We tramp the cornice firn, cleats sinking
calf-deep. Deer, as four bare-headed mulies
drift the white rise wisping through an aspen stand.
Can you see them, tucked and squirreled as you are
layers deep in petrol-blue parka, your hood
and red ladybug cap?
Two does and two small fawns
old enough to be a spotless
hairy bay, still too young to stray a tail’s length away.
Deer, I say, snow underfoot
chilled to dry crumpling and bright enough
in early afternoon glare that you grab at icicles’ glow
and call out Light.
Remember this, I think, snapping spruce needles under his nose,
because the waterfall above us is frozen and barely blue
gray, like your eyes, and these cougar prints
following moose tracks—or the snowshoe hare printing
this hind-leg stretch—
even if you can’t see the stream feeding the falls
it’s there, between the slate cliff and our tilting path.
I don’t know the sign language for waterfall,
but this is the sign for water,
at least when you drink it, your fist and thumb
to your lips,
and I don’t know the sign for lips, either. So
purse them, kiss the shock of pinestraw wind
between us, and that will be our sign. Or
grab at it, like the dripping ice you call
light. Why should I be the one with all the answers?
Even if it’s not shining, call it a light
and you’ll be right.
Jeffrey Tucker’s first full-length collection of poetry, Kill February, was chosen as the 2015 winner of Sage Hill Press' Powder Horn Prize; it was published earlier this year. His work has also appeared (or will appear) in Chariton Review, Poetry South, The Cape Rock, and elsewhere.