The Mourning Doves
Two mourning doves promenaded out together
from under the roses by the garage
where we’d seen just one before, probably
the female, wordlessly scuffing.
Now the two of them stood together
in the mulch of dead snapdragons
as if making conversation for the first time
The day was hot.
The male fluttered out onto the lawn,
spreading his white-marked feathers
as if erotically fingering the grass,
pleading, feigning dying.
It’s the way of males.
The next thing I knew, the female had walked out
from the brick planter filled with old snapdragons
and onto the lawn a distance from the male,
hopping and pecking, pretending disinterest.
It’s the way of females.
She got herself under him, or he’d pounce on her
when she danced into the circle of his magnetism,
so quietly covered by him; I could see only
her tiny head, throat up. She never cried out.
A little later, they stamped in the snapdragons
as before, She pecked at the ground as if it were nothing.
He was picking up pine cones for a cockatiel.
She was a ghostly film unwinding.
They drove home from the coast in the rain.
It was their anniversary trip. That night
she’d dreamed of people surgically joined.
She, like an extra limb hung against his heart
suspended as if by a wire. They drove
down into Rumsey Canyon, striae upended.
She saw her life like that, each part
isolated from the rest: childhood, motherhood.
The twenty years she’d been wih him
kept neatly in its layer. She looked for evidence
of fire in the hills, wanted to see the devastated
remnants of a late-summer holocaust.
All along the road redbuds
exploded interiorly, their russet seedpods
like her heart, exposed, after the fire was out.
And yellow vine-maple like lamps in the mist
of her mother saying “Cheer up!”
And startling shades of orange, invading tamarisks.
And the Oregon grape hanging yellow strands
of light in the suffocated pines.
A blanched tree near a green one. Stripe
of soot on a bole. How fire clawed and leaped.
How it was nothing personal.