David Oestreich

Birthing Myths

As I sit now by the stones of the hearth,
the phoenix appears
so plainly inevitable. For if not
when lining the little nest of kindling
with soft tinder, or stepping back
as flames burst from between the twigs,
an endless flight of startled birds
(the smoke a shadow their brightness cast
upon the sky), or watching the glowing eggs
of embers slowly form—if not at these,
then surely when returning to find
the crumbling ash-gray down left
by departed fledglings; yes,
surely then, someone would have known
here was a story to tell.

Pseudotriton Ruber

You have seen trees; many;
dozens of species. But the oak
at the park that took you and seven
of your childhood friends linked
hand in hand to span its trunk; and
the hickory, miles from any road,
which no one ever notices except
the squadron of bats hunkered
in the shaggy hangars of its bark;
or the willow in your own yard,
that delicate giant wearing slim hearts
on each of its thousand sleeves—
is it not a sin to say, merely, these
are trees?
                        O surely we are fallen!
But let me strive for righteousness.
I will not say, This afternoon
I found a salamander.
I will tell you of the drop of lava,
cool but moist, I found crawling in a rill
among the rocks, that I watched this
small, red leopard prowl the undergrowth
along the mossy corner of a log.
Fierce, shovel-headed Hades flame he was,
licking up millipedes and pill-bug eggs;
I left him there among the hemlocks
undisturbed, but you must know,
(by my poor tongue!) dear reader—
you must know
                        I've told you nothing.