I never told you about the hidden things
the creatures caught and brought back
to the housetarantulas, dun-colored scorpions,
sleek long-tailed lizards that blushed blue
when I touched their bellies.
A collection that made the world more alive,
more awake. I would listen
to themthe scratch and scrape
against a jar or cardboard box
concealed beneath my bed. Their small struggles
thrilled and frightened
in the dark hour when night fell
on all that did
or did not happen in those days.
At bedtime it seemed best not to pray,
best not to attract God's attention
to my small room or to the horse trough outside,
where I'd left a live trout pulled from the shallows.
Under my bedroom window a stack of pine rounds
and pale splintered wood where a cricket lived.
I used a cassette recorder and some nights
would play the tape back and try
to coax the cricket out with his own song.
Beneath my bed I kept another box
filled with artifacts I'd found in the attic
behind the wooden crib and knots of macramé.
I'd searched like an archeologist for things
that proved the past existed
an Indian head nickel, envelopes with 3 cent stamps,
a pair of horseshoe cufflinks, two railway timetables,
letters to my mother, from a man not my father,
signed Forever in bold looping handwriting.
Outside the cricket waited
for his own voice to sing back to him.
When I looked beyond
the darkened glass, I saw
the scarecrow's shadow,
straw arms outstretched, his head full of old news.
Clouds passed across the moon
like trout over creek stones.