Signs of Life in Atlanta

March 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

Signs of Life in Atlanta
Kathleen Brewin Lewis

I. A River Runs Through It
This is a city of automobiles. One long gray highway encircles it; other roads slice it up into an asymmetrical pie. I crisscross the pie in my car, taking myself, my children to the places we’re supposed to be. If I’m lucky, I travel over the Chattahoochee River at least once a day. In the mornings, a thick, soft mist hangs over the river. In the afternoons, solitary fishermen unfurl their lines. I sit up straight in the driver’s seat to catch a glimpse of waterway and water birds over the concrete barriers. What I see calms me. “You are saving my life!” I want to yell to the rocky river, into the wind and roar of the traffic, “You are saving my life.”

II. Coyote
There you are, standing by my swimming pool. I’ve never seen you before, but I know who you are. And you are more handsome than I’ve been led to believe. Your presence explains the missing cat signs around the neighborhood and why I never see brown bunnies on the lawn anymore. And all the while I’ve been watching you, you have never taken your golden eyes off of me. I am the one who finally looks away.

III. Serpentine Stanzas
Glory be to God for dappled things, the poet-priest wrote, but when I see the mottled copperhead lying just ahead on the path, I’m not inclined to sing its praises. Instead I utter the name of the Son of God, grab my walking companion’s arm, and pull her back. We watch, mesmerized and horrified, as the thick, muscular creature slides into the brown leaves.

Once I was weeding the perennial bed in my garden and reached deep into the day lilies. When I pulled my hands up, they were full of wild strawberries, lengths of green vine, and the dry, speckled tatters of a snakeskin.

There is awe and there is fear. And I’m afraid that when it comes to snakes, dappled or otherwise, I can be awfully unappreciative.

IV. Where the Geese Shop
I walk out of the Nordstrom’s at Perimeter Mall and find them loitering in the parking lot: a dusty-gray gaggle of Canadian geese, just standing there, coal-black stockings on their skinny legs, strings of pearls encircling narrow necks.

V. Back to the River
Everywhere I look there is work to be done: the feeding of the poor, the rescue of damaged children, a need to understand the diminishment of the agéd. There are also the dishes, smeared with the remnants of a rich stew, clumps of yellow day lilies in want of division, windows perpetually smudged because a resolute cardinal keeps pecking to come in. When I walk along the river, I note with envy the grace of the great blue heron, which opens its wide wings and sails across the water, walks with delicacy along the bank, and always seems to know which way to turn.


Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose work has appeared in Weave, Loose Change Literary Magazine, The Prose-Poem Project, Long Story Short, and Like the Dew. She is also an editor for the online literary journal, Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination.

Image: Water and Leaves, By Sandra Jensen


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