Correcting the Landscape

Is it important that it was twelve below
and even though the wrecked jeep belonged to Pat
it felt like stealing to go through the chain link
into the deserted scrap yard, jack up
each corner and switch out his new tires
with our old bald? It was twelve below.

The snow squeaked underfoot like Styrofoam.
We were trying to make it in a place
where everything we thought we needed
— insulation, wool, tomatoes —
had to be shipped in from Outside.

There was a raven calling, watery cluck
echoing the lot. There was us cursing
the lug nuts, then another sound,
out of place, high and keen

and you and I startle like any goddamn bird.

I see your head tilt,
ear to the sky, and while Anne is jumping
blood back into her toes and Pat is wrestling
with the left rear, there is within the scene another:
A peregrine calls and we both look up, catch each other doing it,

then laugh. Because it’s not likely a falcon here,
February in central Alaska. The call sounds again,
and a few pigeons wheel up, birds that arrived with

the wires and poles. And that’s why we hear it,
set on some timer to cry away rock doves,
those pushy, urban opportunists without which
we’d most likely not be here, at the foothills
of the Chugach, throats cold in the day’s short light.

Elizabeth Bradfield is author of Interpretive Work, winner of the 2009 Audre Lorde Prize, and Approaching Ice. She is founder and editor of Broadsided Press and lives on Cape Cod.