Autumn Coda, Winter Wondering (for my teacher)

Depth of field photography of mallard duck on body of water

You unbolted a painted library
(its glossy-white oak shelves laden
with human noise bound in leather)
and cracked open an eye-slit of nature:
the limping hare, the iron-cold owl,
and the wounded swan’s blood drops spreading
and sinking fast into crusted snow.
Then you pushed me out the door
to travel, widely, within one mile,
the post-brilliant moods of the Chattahoochee.

The mellowing sun, November spent,
flicked at cayenne-and-cumin-tinged scatterings
along the river road,
while a leaf clung here or there,
fluttering, backlit and oxblood red,
on the knuckles and joints of skinny branches
stripped to grayish anonymity.

Christmas broke on the forest floor,
with evergreen brooms and
palm-pricking pyramid cones
flung from loblolly pines—
their plated trunks chipped,
like the beards of Sumerian kings.
Raindrops teared on Nandina berries,
glowing toxic red, the familiar fruit
of my mother’s wilderness-plucked decorations.

The swamp, to my west, slept,
lulled by silver-thin mists
and tree-slogged soils,
until a mallard flashed green,
and his brassy beak poked the tail feathers
of his mate, riffling the pool.
She scooted and then preened
before tipping forward to graze;
she popped up, bobbing,
a mottled, feathered miracle,
patterned, like Hindu bridal-hennaed hands;
I leaned into this new-year nursery—
and felt the breath of your blessing.


Poem by Catherine Hamrick.

Catherine Hamrick is the copywriter for Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and previously held editorial positions at Cooking Light, Southern Accents, Better Homes and Gardens, and Meredith Books. She writes creative nonfiction and poetry, which she posts on the blog Random Storyteller ( Hamrick placed as a runner-up for the 2020 AWC Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Blue Mountain Review and storySouth.