Nancy Austin

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Songbird, Raptor

The farmhouse chair chirped on wooden planks
as she lifted her cup from its saucer, lowered
her head to the crimson contents of elderberry tea.
Outside, a shrike, songbird-raptor, black, white and grey plumage
so handsome on the hedgerow scans for prey over the pasture,
hooked beak in tandem with head turn, ebony eyes but a glint on a dark mask.
Beseeched by the whir of the bee, the wren, the sparrow,
his white wings flash over meadow milkweed, then blur
in a hover-hunt, to impale his prize on a thorn.



The Return to the Ice Caves

For the first time in five years, bone-chilling temperatures
returned to form an ice bridge to the caves of the south shore.
In ten days, ten thousand came from as far as Japan to trek
this treacherous mile on a lake the Ojibwa named The Great Sea.
Bits of blood on unseen ice heaves called for cleats and ski poles.
Explorers, silenced by waterfalls solidified in their spill from cliffs
of striated sandstone creviced with needles, tucked and twinkling,
labored towards cave mouths that bared enormous icicle teeth
and silver scalloped tongues amid a snow-scape offset by a sapphire sky.
So spiritual, these sanctuaries that appear frozen in time
but change day to day, drop by drop, nature’s testimony
to the power of time and tenacity.



Where I Dwell

I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
Emily Dickenson

The heirloom tomatoes that wound around
the treetop balcony rail
away from pests winged and hoofed
were religiously fertilized,
grew globular, green, and meaty—
but not until October.

And so the vines, short on sun,
drained of form, drained of color—
grew wary of Frost.
Experts enjoined me to toss them,
grow cabbage, grow carrots—
there are no tomatoes in these woods

Too many for my narrow hands,
I gather into my work apron
each unseasoned satin orb,
place some in a bag to ripen,
and for the rest—Possibility—
green tomato curry, green tomato cake,
fried green tomatoes.


Read our interview with Nancy Austin here.


Nancy Austin

Nancy Austin was born in Whitefish Bay, WI, has lived on both coasts, but prefers the lands between. She relishes time to write in the northwoods and has been published in Adanna, Midwestern Gothic, Sheepshead Review, and Verse Wisconsin. Her poetry collection is titled Remnants of Warmth (Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books, 2016).